Monthly Archives: May 2013

Introducing: Sandcastle Project Management Dad

You know what’s the worst thing about Irish summers? No, not the fact that they don’t exist except in the most theoretical way.

We’re talking about that pompous eejit who rears his head every year on our beaches: Sandcastle Project Management Dad (SPMD). He can’t just let the nippers mess away and throw up some yoke that looks like a plate of half-set jelly left beside a radiator for five hours.

No, this hero must take full control of the “build”, as if leading a major public works project, instead of just spending time with his kids while discreetly ogling 19-year-olds in teeny bikinis.

SPMD has to organise the whole thing, measure the dimensions, make it perfect. You half-expect him to suggest buttressing a supporting wall with some Loop-the-Loop sticks, or apply for planning on an interior moat with bucket-shaped turrets.

Then he loses his temper when the toddler crushes part of it and shoos the children far away, as they are “jeopardising the project’s viability”.

A true menace on Irish beaches, only matched by those idiots who refuse to pull their poodle back when it’s clearly terrifying a child, homoerotic gym buddies doing tandem sit-ups, weirdoes having picnics even though there’s a hurricane blowing sand into the sandwiches, German men wearing tiny trunks…

Oh, we’re better off not having much of a summer.


Radio GAGA

People are weird.

I know you know that – everyone knows that, even the weirdoes – but I’m talking here about one specific area of weirdness. Allow me to explain: I do a weekly radio column for the Irish Independent. You’d imagine something like that wouldn’t incite a very strong response. It’s just someone giving their opinion on what they’ve heard over the last week, with the odd digression into broader themes. And my style is not bland or milquetoast, but neither is it especially inflammatory or ‘controversial’. It’s reasonably well-balanced. Definitely not the sort of thing to get someone all riled up.

You’d think.

And you’d be wrong. Some of the emails I get are so bizarrely aggressive and histrionic, they almost come across like a pastiche of “angry reader”. Bear in mind what’s being discussed here – then read on… (Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.)

 

First, this letter in response to a piece praising Miriam O’Callaghan, and saying how likeable she was:

“you puffing up miriam ocallaghan made me feel sick… she is a talentless heap of shite! her front line interviews are stupidly embarrassing… her taking herself not seriously is a huge problem…. in her tv chat show ( the worst that i have ever seen) she enters a show biz world..that she has no part in…she like ryan tubberty should be in the audience and not on the stage…. Please spare us the CRAP about this brain less woman… she makes clare byrne look like einstien… give us a break… you must enjoy girly vacous shite”

 

This was about some reference I made to abortion – a serious issue, admittedly, but the presumptions this writer makes about me, based on one expressed opinion, are hilariously and depressingly ironic, given his opening words:

“You presume a lot if you think the views that you (and your clique of journalists in Dublin and on the net) have are the same views of the majority in the country and that David Quinn’s views are strange and unpopular. Honestly I think you hacks live in an alternative reality and think that you speak for all. Watch the two HUGE pro-life rallies next month and the month after and see whether David Quinn’s view is a minority view. You are as out of touch as the politicians,the vastly overpaid RTE celebrities and your other media colleagues. Get out more and talk to the ordinary people in the country and not just your little narrow-minded, liberal, pro-abortion, pro-anything-that’s-PC-of-the-times friends. I read articles like your articles several times a week all over the place and your smugness and condescending superiority is annoying.”

 

More abortion, I’m guessing. And more clichés, stereotypes and assumptions:

“Hi Darragh, you’re just what Ireland needs now- another liberal, pro-abortion journalist. Ye all must feel very cosy, preaching from your modern pulpits. By all means let’s have hard questioning. Could I offer a few suggestions? What should be done with the aborted remains? Incineration? Burial with suitable words or prayers? Recycling- not so far fetched as it seems as cannibalism is still practised? Let’s ask about abortion methods. Saline injection? Partial birth abortion? Dismemberment? Time limits could also be debated. Does 24 weeks suit or maybe 23 weeks and 6 days. Let’s subtract another day or 2 just to make the foul deed more reasonable. At least be honest. Abortion kills a developing human life.  Thou shalt  not kill seems a good guide to me and I hope it stays that way or no one is safe. “

 

This genius didn’t understand the point of an opinion column, complaining that mine was too concerned with, eh, giving an opinion.

“Rarely am I moved to write in response to an article but yours takes the biscuit. Is it possible that somebody can become a journalist in Ireland and get away with writing this kind of meaningless tripe. Who gives a shite whether you feel awful or not, whether you find OGorman boring or whether you think he’s an institution, or uninteresting or commendable. I don’t hear him very often but give me a real journalist like Paddy anyday to somebody writing this kind of boring twaddle. Just reread your first two paragraphs and ask yourself ‘Was I put on earth to write this stuff?’”

 

This was after one of my periodic digs at Irish people slavishly following UK soccer teams, instead of their own local team. And that’s almost as weird as the tone of these letters…

“Gosh Darragh, what an interesting and original article in yesterday’s Irish independent…why do those silly Irish men support English football?! What a rip tickler. And why has no one thought of it before? I must say it down the pub and watch the place erupt like its 1993 when a debate like this was last considered interesting or worth discussing. But then of course you wouldn’t just be using your column to rip on something you personally dislike by any chance? Heaven forbid men in Ireland are allowed some distraction from their unemployment, rising mortgages and reduced standing in society. Maybe they should start writing radio review columns for a national broadsheet? All it seems to require is a few personal prejudices and some archaic arguments to see you on your way to a nice paycheck.”

 

This one’s about Marty Whelan! How the hell can anyone get angry when thinking about Marty Whelan! You wouldn’t mind but I was very complimentary to him. Best of all, they demand an apology!

“It was with great surprise to note the contents of your article in the Irish Independent review date Saturday 4th June, in which you criticised Marty Whelan’s ability to present his early morning slot on Lyric FM.  I was really angered with your comments and your suggestion that Mr. Whelan has a place but not on Lyric ? What rubbish!!  I throughly enjoy Lyric Fm and that includes Mr. Whelan’s programme. His light banter brings a smile not just to  me but to many of my colleagues.  I am a music teacher by profession and have been teaching piano for the last 21 years and I think Lyric Fm has it just right including Mr. Whelan. You suggest that Marty does not know his place – I suggest that you do not know yours?  I await your comments in next week’s edition and an apology for your narrowmindedness would not go astray.”

 

And this is Marty too!

“In reference to your article on Marty on Lyric radio. Hands Off!!!! so WHAT? he may play lounge music as you call it but I and my friends love him. You have 21 other hours left to listen to your high brow classical music. I was a patient in the Galway Clinic recently for a month and for 3 hours he kept me sane, including some other patients who loved him too. As you said he’s a veteran, a trouper.and one of the good guys, I can only hope You last as long in your profession Believe me he knows his stuff and is allways cheery and full of bits of news.So no more nasty words about him. Name another station where we can get that kind of a good programme.”

 

And this came after I made some jocose reference to sports fans and their tiresome ‘banter’:

“Hi, Just read your piece on banter and just wanted to say that the fact that this inane piece of tat was actually published and you got paid for it makes me sick. How much do you get paid as a matter of interest? Do you have free rein to write what you like or has somebody as unimaginative as yourself instructed you to inflict such twaddle upon us? I am genuinely curious. Kind regards, XX”

 

A lot of people feeling ‘sick’ reading innocuous little radio review columns.

PS Normally I don’t respond to crank emails – it surely only encourages them – but I did, once, to that last one, and this can pretty much stand as a stock reply to them all:

 

Dear XX,

You ask a lot of questions, so here are a few questions back.

Do you normally write abusive screeds to people you don’t know, for no real reason whatsoever? Do you normally ask people you don’t know what their salary is? Can I ask what job you do, and how much you get paid? Do you welcome professional criticism and personalised attacks from complete strangers? Is all your correspondence this hysterical and violently over-the-top? Are you this rude to family members and friends, or just to people you don’t know?

Actually I should thank you, because your vicious little poison-pen letter – I notice you don’t sign your full name – has given me an idea for a piece. Who knows, I may even quote some of it. Lucky you, you’ll be immortalised in ‘an inane piece of tat’ by someone ‘as unimaginative as me’.

Good luck to you,

Darragh


How Alex Ferguson sold his soul to Satan for fortune and glory

Yes, you read that right.

When the Man United manager announced his retirement this week, I couldn’t have been more indifferent if I was locked in a coma, inside a sensory-deprivation tank, on the third moon of Jupiter.

But like many Irish sports fans, I once avidly followed English soccer (or football, as Brits and weird Irish people call it). More specifically, I followed Liverpool.

I wrote this piece at the start of the 2001-’02 Premiership season. The sub-title ran, “He’s back! He’s angry! He still hates Man United and bleeds Liverpool, so don’t expect any pretence at fairness or impartiality!” That gives you some idea of where I was coming from.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: this is satire. Just a piece of fun, and not to be taken seriously. I don’t actually believe that Alex Ferguson sold his soul to the Devil*. Anyway, enjoy…

 

I wanted to start this Premiership preview on a high note, folks. I wanted to be able to stand up here on this page, wherever it is (it’s the front page, right, boss? You promised), and declare: “The Evil Empire shall reign no more! The glorious Age of the Scousers is upon us! All kneel in worship as Liverpool reclaim the league title and Man United finish a miserable seventh or eighth.”

I wanted to say this but couldn’t, and here’s why:

Up until the middle of July, next season’s Premiership was still some sort of a fair competition. You Know Who were still everyone’s favourites to win a record fourth consecutive championship, but Liverpool, Arsenal, Leeds and maybe one or two others harboured faint hopes of stealing the title.

Around the middle of July, though, Alex Ferguson went out and spent almost £50million on three players who’ve almost certainly guaranteed yet another league title will be winging its way towards Gold Trafford. Hell, thy name is Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastian Veron and Roy Carroll.

Oh, sorry – that should read, “Hell, thy three names are…” and repeat step one. The aforementioned gruesome threesome delivered a swift blow to the tender regions of anyone foolish, obstinate or insane enough to still believe anything other than a Man U triumph is possible this season. And why is this, apart from Fergie’s 50 squillion insurance policy in his last season?

Simple: it’s coz “Sir” Alex sold his soul to Satan in 1989. As exhaustively researched by yours truly and a small cabal of dedicated, albeit slightly disturbed, freedom-fighters, Ferguson couldn’t win a game of poker against a blind baboon with no hands – who had been bribed to lose by the Chicago mob – up until the end of the eighties. His expensively-assembled collection of mistakes, misfits and miscreants even flirted with relegation a few times.

Since 1990, though, the dude can’t put a Nike-tracksuited foot wrong. Every purchase has been a roaring success (with Jordi Cruyff and Massimo Taibi the exceptions that prove the rule), practically every trophy has been relentlessly annexed, every refereeing decision and jammy break of the ball has gone their way, and every ABU has been driven into a state of near apoplexy.

And you’re telling me that the Horned One isn’t involved here somewhere?

So it’s obvious that some sort of bizarre, terrifying pact was struck sometime around the end of ‘89, possibly involving chicken blood, the golden tresses of a young virgin and demonic incantations being spoken backwards. Hey, sounds like my regular Saturday night hoe-down to be honest, but the point is that, with Old Nick in their corner, the Red Menace are unbeatable, unbackable and un-freakin’-believable.

As for the wrong end of the table, I don’t know and don’t care who’s in line for the chop, so long as Middlesborough – who have been hanging around annoying everyone for far too long – finally suffer the relegation they so richly deserve.

So there you have it, my faithful children: I have spoken and it wast exceedingly good. Now go forth and spread the good word, and all you ABUs remember: your team may not win anything, but at least your soul will go to heaven when you die.

Amen, brothers and sisters. Amen.

 

*Or do I…?


Rebel rebel, you’ve torn your dress

When I first heard the news, I assumed a grievous mistake had been made. Reese Witherspoon arrested? For sassing a cop who’d pulled over her fella for drink-driving? And then giving it the old “don’t you know who I am” line? And then having her mug-shot taken down the jail-house?

No, I thought. They must mean Rhys Ifans, the scarecrow-haired hobo who was in Notting Hill. He’s always boozing and causing a ruckus. Or Tim Witherspoon, the presumably punch-drunk former world boxing champ. Boxers are always fierce scuts.

Or maybe some notoriously alcoholic and trouble-prone celeb staggered out of one of the JD Wetherspoon’s chain of gastropubs and straight into the arms of John Q. Law. Or someone had a bizarre chemical reaction to eating too many Reese’s Chocolates and went on a sugar-enhanced rampage. Yeah, that must be it.

Amazingly, none of these outlandish scenarios was the case. Reese Witherspoon really had been arrested for sassing a cop. Reese Witherspoon, who looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in the mouth which occupies a front-and-centre position towards the lower half of her cutesy, blue-eyed, bushy-tailed, heart-shaped face. Who won an Oscar and went to Stanford University and seems a responsible mother and has never been in a lick of trouble.

Yeah, her. That Reese Witherspoon. Crazy, innit?

Needless to say, the jokes started flying before the camera flash had even died away. Huge movie star gets arrested? Sure, it’d be an immoral dereliction of duty not to make a joke.

The best one I saw was made by someone very clever and witty – me – on Twitter: “I didn’t buy Reese Witherspoon in that mug-shot. I mean technically, yes, it was a good performance. But I just wasn’t feeling it, you know?”

Har-dee-har-har. But if I could just put on a serious expression and pretend to actually be serious for a moment: what the Sam Hill is going on here? Has Reese Witherspoon been possessed by the collective spirit of Rhys Ifans, Tim Witherspoon and the CEOs of JD Wetherspoons and Reese’s Chocolates?

Almost certainly…yes.

Another pertinent question is: why do we love it when a good girl goes bad? Is there something petty and vindictive inside each of us, which exults in the fall from grace of a sleb who previously seemed a bit too sweet and wholesome and perfect (a description which also fits those aforementioned chocolates)?

Again, almost certainly…yes.

Still, at least Reese had the good grace to arrive at this point by accident. I mean, I’m presuming it wasn’t part of some strategic plot to further her career by getting into a bit of argy-bargy with a highway patrolman. She’s massive, she doesn’t need to do that.

At her level of fame, she’d be looking at engineering a spurious cat-fight with Ann Hathaway through selective leaked quotes to the media. Or vomiting blood onto George Clooney’s tuxedo at the Oscars after-party, then slurring, “That’s what I f**king think of you, Clooney. You git.”

So Reese’s run-in with Joe Q. Legality was spontaneous and unplanned. But I hate when some actress cynically decides to shatter her good-girl image by doing something – yawn – “daring” or “shocking”. It’s such a bore, isn’t it? So lazy and clichéd and manipulative.

You know how it goes. Such-and-such becomes famous for making Disney comedies and saccharine pop albums. Instead of keeping her head down and thanking Lucifer the Lord of Flies for his blessings in giving her this fame and money which she almost certainly didn’t deserve based on talent alone, she decides to do something – yawn – “controversial” or “outrageous”.

It’s always the same old sheeeite. Do a nude scene, do a lesbian scene, play a hooker/stripper/porno “actress”, allow a sex-tape to be “stolen”, fall out of a nightclub while conveniently wearing no knickers, et cetera.

Basically, the message is: Look at me, I have boobs and a vagina. Yes, that’s right – even though I was in a Disney movie, I possess the normal sexual characteristics of adult female primates of the family Hominidae and genus Homo Sapiens!

Wow, well done to you. Great achievement. Although I think evolution deserves most of the credit.

It’s boring, and kind of depressing, because it always involves sexuality. Is that the only way a young woman can show the world she’s now grown-up? Perhaps even worse, is that the only way a young woman can display rebellion?

Just once, I’d love to see a former teen princess join some hard-line Maoist terror cell, lead an insurgent army or make conceptual art so bizarre that the other conceptual artists are all like, ‘Whoa, that is some pretty goddamn bizarre conceptual art, dude.’

It’ll never happen, though, which is a real pity. But not as much of a pity as the fact that my theory about Reese Witherspoon being possessed is untrue.