Monthly Archives: February 2013

Where in the world?

I’ve been to a fair few places, but I’m not a massive fan of travelling. In fact, I sort of hate it. Specifically, the amount of hype, hoopla and horse-poo which is written and spoken about it.

The worst thing is how travelling inculcates an intolerable self-satisfaction in devotees – as if they pick it up on their journey, by some strange metaphysical process, along with email addresses of Kiwi students they’ll never contact, one of the nastier STDs, and a prodigious collection of foreign currency in denominations so small the bank’s foreign exchange teller glares at you as if to say, ‘Are you taking the mickey or what?’

‘Oh, but you have to travel!’ the returned voyager will shriek. ‘It’s changed me forever! Travelling totally broadens the mind.’ Does it, though? I guess it depends on what sort of mind you have in the first place.

Any moron can backpack around the flesh-pots of the world and return an even bigger troglodyte than they were leaving. By contrast, many writers, philosophers and other beautiful minds spend their lives in the same small town and yet are truly perceptive, liberal and open-minded. So put that sticker on your backpack, dude.

You don’t need to actually go anywhere to be ‘well-travelled’, a fact I am about to prove. I’ve seen next to nothing of Planet Earth but now present the world’s first speculative atlas, based more on hearsay, assumption, national stereotypes and random junk pulled out of the ether, than real knowledge.

So it’s informative, as well as entertaining.

 

Kazakhstan

Enormous blank space on map of Asia. Location for Soviet A-bomb tests. Supposedly has lots of oil, but who can say for sure? Dusty. Made famous by unfunny 2006 comedy starring that git in the cheap blue suit. Population: sixteen million (fourteen million humans, two million irradiated monsters underground). Main tourist attraction: it’s not Kyrgyzstan.

 

France

Large Western European nation. Bad at wars since Napoleonic times. Good at shrugging and being blasé about spouse’s affairs. Said to be cursed with wicked garlic breath. Women beautiful and ‘complicated’. Interesting fact: only people on earth allowed hold arrogant notion that their culture is superior to all others. That’s because it is.

 

Jamaica

Small Caribbean island. Former colony or sugar plantation or something. Home of Rastafarian religion, horrible reggae music, enormous multicoloured woollen caps. Once ran bobsled team in Winter Olympics. Population: what am I, National Geographic?

 

Africa

One massive country south of Mediterranean (note: check veracity of Sarah Palin statement before publication). Very hot. Setting for racist Johnny Weissmuller movies in the thirties. Fauna includes lions, hyenas, Indian elephants and Venus flytraps the size of the Sears Tower. Main exports: aid money to Swiss banks. Main imports: luxury cars, high-end weaponry.

 

Russia

Troubled history of internecine slaughter and needlessly depressing epic novels. Funny alphabet with backwards letters and nonsensical squiggles. Industry based on steel, vodka, international espionage, ice-skating and ice-skating-related enterprises. No longer cannibal except in outlying regions. Area: enormous. Christ, it really is. It’s gigantic. I mean, have you seen it on the map?

 

Australia

Smallest of the continents but also a country, which is just confusing. Stolen from peaceable natives in nineteenth century. Full of kangaroos and discarded beer cans. Approximately six months behind rest of world, hence celebrate Christmas in June which is actually the previous January. Weird/comical accents. Famous sons: obnoxious former tennis champ Pat Cash, guy who directed Moulin Rouge.

 

Saudi Arabia

Makey-uppy Middle Eastern state. Political system: sand-blown theocracy. Currently celebrating arrival of twelfth century. Don’t seem to like women very much. Floating on endless oceans of oil, hence Western world’s indifference to fact they don’t seem to like women very much. Main industry: marrying six-year-old girls to their geriatric first cousins.

 

Ireland

Island in northern Atlantic. Comes in forty shades of green (see accompanying shade-card for full selection). Birthplace of Bono and notorious Prohibition-era hoodlum Vincent ‘Mad Dog’ Coll. Blew up a whole bunch of stuff in Britain during the 1970s. Climatically temperate, meaning soft drizzle for 362 days every year. Hard drizzle rest of the time. Religion: Catholic, Church of Ireland, cult of hating Bono.

 

Japan

East Asian country. Famed for politeness, intricate art of folding paper, rice-based alcoholic drinks, vacuum-packed schoolgirls’ panties. Incredibly over-populated. Really, they’re living on top of one another. Lost WWII on a knockout. Periodically beset by earthquakes and bouts of national self-flagellation. Main industries: potentially fatal raw fish-based delicacies, tiny electronics, vacuum-packed schoolgirls’ panties.

 

Rumgaria

Doesn’t exist.

 

Costa Morada

Doesn’t exist either.

 

Luxembourg

Does exist, but really, what’s the point?

 

Colombia

South American slum. I mean nation. Most dangerous place on earth ™. Torn apart by politically obsolete narco-guerrillas and fat druglords in linen suits and oiled-back hair. Considerably more depressing to visit than Paraguay, but pees all over El Salvador. Interesting fact: fat druglords always call their daughters ‘my little princess’. Yecchh. Creepy.

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We just love to love

Valentine’s Day is coming soon. And you know what that means, don’t you? It’s Dean Gaffney’s 35th birthday! I know, I can’t believe it either!

Oh, and there’ll be romance and flowers and Westlife ballads and what-not on the go too. The impending arrival of Valentineses got me thinking about the notion of romantic love: has it changed much over the last few years, in this online age?

The internet has altered the world in all sorts of ways. Once upon a time if you wanted to access pornography of a graphic and usually German nature, you had to put on a sleazy trench-coat, shuffle into a shop of ill-repute with an ironically cutesy name like Princess Imelda’s Apothecary of Earthly Delights, and fork over 10 bob for a copy of Der Grossen Sadomasokkkism Frauleinz XXX. Or so I’ve been told.

Nowadays they virtually give the stuff away free with supermarket loyalty tokens. Is this an improvement? Almost certainly not. Unless your trench-coat is in the wash.

Likewise, the internet has changed how people meet prospective partners. Once upon a time there used to be this thing called “dating”.

Here’s how it worked: someone would ask someone else out on a “date”, meaning a pre-arranged meeting at a restaurant, cinema or similar, with the express intention of a romantic engagement. The question would be put through a formal structure known as “having a conversation”, during which two human beings shared physical proximity and exchanged sentences composed of words and syntax, and delivered via the communications medium technically termed “your mouth”.

If the people on this “date” liked each other, they might finish the evening with a coffee/kiss/drunken scrape on a fire escape ladder, and arrange to meet for another “date”. If they really liked each other, they would generally continue meeting on a somewhat regular basis, leading to a set of circumstances in which they would be said to be “dating”.

Then they’d do the Vince Barnes a few times, get married, knock out a few kids and stew in simmering hostility towards each other for the next 60 years or so. Ah, love – ain’t it grand?

Now, though, dating seems to have gone the way of the dodo. For one thing, nobody talks to nobody in person anymore, so you can’t have that aforementioned conversation. It’s all texting and Skyping and the Twitter and the Facebook and I don’t know what it all means.

Literally: I don’t know what any of those words mean. Is Skyping the evil computer that destroys mankind in the Terminator movies?

Anyway, I can’t imagine trying to ask someone out via text. I’m picturing it going something like this:

“U wan go out” “OK where” “Drink R movie wevs” “Nah MAD hungover never again!!! LOL” “Wot bout movie den” “Seen all D gud 1s” “Sorry don’t undrstand wot U Mean” “Seen em all nuting gd out” “Yeah but date with me tho” “Date is Jan 29 why U ask” “No asking U” “asking me wot” “oh for fcks sake” “Wots Ur prblem” “This is a message from Vodafone, you are out of credit. Text 55555 for a two euro top-up”.

And so on and so forth. Or try asking someone out on Twitter: you’d have to compress all that pent-up emotion and heart-wracking longing into 140 characters, and then before the other person could answer someone else would see it on their timeline and join in the conversation, and before you know it, there’d be 15 of you getting pointlessly annoyed at something stupid said by some lame-ass American politician who has nothing to do with any of your lives. Which you are now wasting by getting worked up about him.

But it’s all moot anyway because as far as I can tell – from reading hysterical newspaper articles written by middle-aged creeps with an unhealthy interest in the sexual doings of young people – nobody under 30 dates anymore. They don’t date regularly, they don’t even go on single dates and skip the traditional kiss and coffee, moving straight onto the drunken scrape on a fire escape ladder.

Today’s young people apparently just “hook up” with each other. This seems to involve: posting a picture of yourself naked on Tumblr or some junk; having Biblical relations with a large watermelon, an uncorked bottle of Riesling and two randomers you met at the bus stop; joining one of those “find a SEX partner in your area TONIGHT!!” type websites that keep spamming me when I’m semi-illegally downloading bit torrents of movies; and then texting whoever you last slept with and whose number is near the top of your “dialled” list.

“Hey U wanna do biz 2nite?” “Yeah that’d be gr- This is a message from Vodafone, you are out of credit. Text 55555 for a two euro top-up.”


The Divil’s Dictionary

Satire never goes out fashion. Which is unfortunate, really, because it wouldn’t be necessary if we lived in an ideal world. In Heaven, for example, there’s a total dearth of good satire (Jesus tried it once at the celestial comedy club’s open-mike slot: went down like the Tower of Babel).

Down here, though, we’ll forever be beset by pomposity, stupidity and people who insist on giving their children names like Woden and Poppy-Sparrow, despite all appeals to common decency.

We’ll always need satire, and always have. The great American humourist Ambrose Bierce published The Devil’s Dictionary a full century ago, and it remains just as relevant today.

The book is bilious and spectacularly bitchy: in other words, great fun. So good that I’ve been inspired to update it for Ireland 2013.

To exhaustively lampoon everything that makes modern life rubbish would mean colonising this whole newspaper for a decade. So we’ll limit it to the annoying things people say nowadays: the clichés, jargon and gobbledegook that have become a part of (and here’s one) “the national discourse”.

Rereading a collection of George Orwell essays recently – yes, I am that intellectual – I was reminded of how these people seem to speak from the back-brain, almost unconsciously, yapping away on auto-pilot without processing what they’re saying.

It’s time to take back Hiberno-English from the drones and robots. It’s time to make a stand for linguistic truth and elegance. At the very least, it’s time to poke fun at some idiots, which is both amusing and morally justifiable.

It’s time for The Divil’s Dictionary.

  • “May I begin by saying”: Yes, you may. The host has just asked for your opinion. You don’t now need permission to speak.
  • “First and foremost”: tautology at its finest. First and foremost? It’s a two-for-one offer!
  • “It’s a real Marmite sort of film/book/whatever”: what you mean is, it’s likely to divide opinion. But you’ve expressed this by reference to a vegetable-based British sandwich spread which has never been consumed by anyone in this country. You might as well reference Krav Maga or monkey-brain soup.
  • “Awards season”: oh there’s a season now, is there? What is it, Winter, Awards, Spring, Summer, Autumn? Gah. You probably say “Fall” too, just to be doubly annoying. And while we’re here…
  • “Gong”: prize, award, statuette. No human being in history has ever used “gong” in spoken English.
  • “Luuurve”: this stupid pronunciation of the word “love” is much, eh, loved by DJs on those late-night shows playing smoochy classics for romantically inclined insomniacs. “Now we’re gunnatogaliddlebidaboud luuurve.” Must we?
  • “101”: hey, it’s Psychology 101, you guys! It’s Trolling 101! It’s “Saying 101” 101! …No, it’s Idiocy 101.
  • “-ista”: this suffix has become an unstoppable plague. Hedonista, fashionista, recessionista…I’m just surprised we haven’t seen psychopathista or homelessista yet. But we will.
  • “Aw, bless”: no, because a God could not exist which permits you to use a phrase like “Aw, bless.”
  • “Empowering” this has become so meaningless, Microsoft Word is refusing to let me type it in. It keeps deleting the letters. Did you know stripping is empowering for women? It really is! Presumably being gelded and crucified was empowering for the slaves of Imperial Rome too.
  • “Mum”: as a proper word in advertising. You mean “mother”; “mum” is a pet-name some, but not all, people used for theirs. Anyway, why not mam or mammy?
  • “Gingers”: ignorant neologism for people formerly known as redheads. Any Irish person making jokes about red hair should have their passport confiscated. Anyone pronouncing it to rhyme with “singer” gets beaten to death. Harsh but fair.
  • “The beautiful game”: said of association football. It may be, but your constant reversion to cliché isn’t.
  • “Oligarchs”: when used to describe rich Russians, or indeed anyone not the head of an Abrahamic religion or a city-state in Ancient Greece.
  • “I’ll get my coat”: please do, the Funniness Police are waiting to arrest you for crimes against humour.
  • “The real issue here”: is that I’m about to stab you in the throat if you continue that sentence.
  • “Outraged”: by nothing remotely outrageous.
  • “Appalling”: never even close to it.
  • “A man who needs no introduction”: then why are you introducing him? Just let the dude amble up on-stage.
  • “During the course of the week gone by”: such a short sentence, so many unnecessary words in there.
  • SPECIAL RUGBY SECTION: “Big ask, hard yards, front up, grubber, try time, grind his testicles into the mud Alan.” /END SPECIAL RUGBY SECTION
  • And finally, the two phrases most beloved of our – ahem – commentariat: “It’s a real game-changer” and “The only show in town”. Well which is it, game or show? I need to book tickets.