Friday, 30 January 2009

Hangovers and the Delusionally Positive Brigade

MOUTH like the sole of a Saharan nomad’s sandal. Throat that sounds like I spent the weekend munching on sandpaper. Eyes so heavy that every blink could end in an instant coma.

The unfortunate thing about rowdy weekends is that they are almost always followed by a torturous Monday and - depending on the severity of the previous few days’ lunacy - sometimes a pretty rough Tuesday and Wednesday.

Feeling like you spent the whole weekend fighting off a family of seriously pissed-off grizzly bears does little for one’s creativity on a Monday morning. Last Monday, however, the suffering could be almost justified as the previous few days had thrown up several reasons to celebrate.

It all began on Saturday afternoon with a nail-biting victory for Bruff over Old Crescent out in Kilballyowen.

Two previous meetings this year had thrown up one victory for each side and Saturday’s fixture would decide who could claim bragging rights for the rest of the season.

My many friends affiliated with Old Crescent should be warned that I will be exerting that particular right at regular intervals over the next few months. When in a particularly boastful mood, you will find me intolerable.

Saturday evening brought another victory as Yours Truly took home a gong at the Mid-West Arts, Media and Culture Awards. Being neither arty nor cultured, the award was clearly in recognition of my work here in this paper.

If you think you hear a horn being tooted by its owner, you’re not mistaken.

Then on Sunday, Munster’s comprehensive victory over Montauban gave more reason for revelry. That evening, however, the realization dawned that - bar a major disturbance in the spacetime continuum - Monday morning was speeding our way like an out-of-control freight train, packed with headaches and cottonmouth.]

“Can’t anybody stop it?”

“Afraid not Mister, you better get home for a wash and some sleep before it’s time to suit and boot up for another week of work.”

Yet even on mornings such as last Monday - when my mood is somewhere between unsociable and murderous - it never occurs to me that I’d like to be doing any other kind of work.

I’d just love if attendance was optional on Mondays and Fridays, lunch was three hours long and comfy beds were provided in-house for those times when you feel like a snooze. Hell, I’m an award-winner now, they might just listen to a suggestion like that.

No you can’t

THE “You can do anything if you put your mind to it” mantra has always bothered me immensely, for no reason other than it’s obviously the talk of a blathering half-wit.

A motto for the Delusionally Positive Brigade the world over, this particular phrase has the potential to do far more harm than good.

What if, for instance, I had announced to my family at an early age that the only thing I desired in life was a career in the NBA?

Even at that stage in life, it would have been quite obvious to my parents that I wasn’t going to be the first Hogan in generations to reach the six foot mark. Therefore, they would have sensibly advised me to set out goals that were a little more realistic.

An average seconds rugby player? Perhaps. A world-class basketball player? Come on sonny boy, get real.

If either mammy or daddy had been so reckless as to say “You can do anything if you put your mind to it”, I may have spent years of wasted toil, trying to achieve the blatantly unachievable.

Irish Entrepreneur Magazine did nothing for realistic ambitions last week with the launch of its campaign titled ‘You can do anything’ which, in fairness, has the noble aim of encouraging entrepreneurism in Ireland.

But why make your slogan so all-encompassing? What’s wrong with ‘You can do anything as long as it’s within reason and your physical and mental limitations’?

Some friendly advice

Continuing with the negativity this week, I’d like to have an ever so slight, friendly, barely-noticeable dig at Live 95 FM.

Not so long ago, I provoked the ire of another local radio station with a less than complimentary comment on its news broadcasts so I shall try my best to tread very carefully as I have no desire to make any more enemies in the broadcasting world.

That said, something really has to be done about 95 FM’s daytime playlist. Remember the Tony Rich Project? Someone on the Dock Road certainly does because ‘Nobody Knows’, his one and only big hit from 1995, is played at least three times a week on Live 95 FM.

And how about Eagle Eye Cherry? His song, ‘Save Tonight’, reached about number six in the charts back in 1997 but that doesn’t stop it from getting as much airplay as good old Tony Rich.

And then there’s also Green Day’s ‘Time of Your Life’, now most commonly heard being murdered by pimply teenagers who have just learned how to play a few guitar chords, but still getting banged out a few times weekly on 95 FM also.

Please don’t take this as heartfelt criticism, more of an impassioned plea in the name of all that is tasteful to change the playlist just a little.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Rugby matches, tiddlywinks and gay pride parades all set for Croke Park in 2009.

Two years ago - when I was still just a wide-eyed student of journalism dreaming of one day getting to report on Limerick city council meetings - I wrote a letter to a national newspaper, arguing that Croke Park should be opened up for the Heineken Cup semi-final if Munster and Leinster were to clash at that stage.

At the time, Lansdowne Road was not available and both teams had qualified for the quarter-finals. As it turned out, neither went any farther so my argument was moot.

However, that didn't stop a barrage of abusive letters - one of them 12 typed pages long - being sent to my address which, in my naivety, I had allowed to be printed in its entirety. I treasured each and every one of these hate-spewing letters as proof that I was capable of getting a reaction out of people with just a few words by firmly laying out my position on something.

That the reaction I provoked was - for the most part - one of temple-bursting rage made it all the better. One letter started off 'Dear Idiot'. Several of my abusers called me a 'West Brit'. If memory serves me correctly, only one provided me with a return address.

It was glorious. I could almost hear them lashing their hurleys in fury against every solid surface in their cave after reading my letter to the editor.

One particularly warped individual from the North even predicted that opening up Croke Park was just another ploy by the Brits to get their grubby mits back on the republic and I was just too darned stupid to see it.

Of course my letter also prompted a number of well laid-out, reasonable reponses. But they were mostly sent to and printed in the newspaper that had printed the original letter. Two subsequent letters from Your Truly were also printed as the argument grew legs over the next fortnight.

Anyway the point of this is that once again the scenario has arisen whereby Munster and Leinster could well face off in a European semi-final and there may be no choice but for the game to be played outside of Ireland.

I'm aware that there is every possibility the GAA could open up Croke Park for such a fixture. But I'm also certain that there are still those whose eyes will water, toes curl and rectums tighten at the very idea of the ground opening up not only for internationals but also for provincial rugby games. I'd like to hear your reactions again guys.

With that in mind, I will once again lay out my position that Croke Park was built with the money of taxpayers (many of whom have never even watched a GAA game) and - if not quite a national stadium - then the ground should at least strive to serve the interests of all Irish citizens, GAA supporters or not.

If demand is sufficient amongst the Irish public to make an event commercially viable and it doesn't conflict with an existing GAA fixture or present a serious threat to the stadium and its surface, then it should take place in Croker whether its a Heineken Cup game, the Tiddlywinks Championships or a gay pride parade.

No home address this time I'm afraid, so abuse will have to be restricted to the comments section.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Thomond Park may be invaded by legions of Fiachras, Fintans and Fachtnas

This week's column from the paper.

IN A few months time, there’s more than a small chance that the rugby world will truly enter the Twilight Zone, with Munster calling the RDS home and Leinster setting up temporary residence in Thomond Park.

I excrement you not. This could actually happen if both sides were to reach the European Cup semi-finals and - by the luck of the draw - each were to get a home fixture.

ERC rules stipulate that teams who receive home advantage for a European semi cannot play the game in their home ground and must nominate a neutral venue in their home country.

That rules Thomond Park out and the regulations of the GAA mean that Croke Park would also not be an option (heaven forbid an Irish side were to play a game in a stadium which was built with Irish tax-payers’ money.)

Unfortunately, construction work in Lansdowne Road won’t be completed on time either and that leaves one undesirable remaining option.

While particularly delusional Leinster fans will tell you that the Royal Dublin Society has become something of a fortress since Drico and pals started plying their trade there, in reality it is the ugly cousin to Thomond Park’s homecoming queen.

For one thing, the ground can only hold 18,500 (although this would have to be increased to 20,000 for a European semi-final). On top of that, my reliable rugby sources inform me that well over half of these tickets would go to sponsors and visiting fans if the match were to be played there.

Also, playing our home match in our arch rival’s ground would necessitate having to navigate the labyrinthine streets of the capital. Half of us probably wouldn’t make it past the Red Cow Roundabout.

And as if that isn’t bad enough, on the same weekend that we’re all out of town, legions of Leinster supporters will invade our brand new stadium when no one’s looking.

Limerick will become part of the Pale for 24 hours as blue, harp-emblazoned flags are draped around Thomond Park, ‘Alive Alive-O’ is sung from the terraces and barmen in the stadium try to figure out what the hell Courvoisier Cognac is.

It’s just not right. Richard Harris would do a few pirouettes in his grave, stray dogs would howl outside the stadium gates and - worst of all - instead of respectful silence, kicks at goal would be marked by cheers and jeers from legions of Fiachras, Fintans and Fachtnas.

I know it may be jumping the gun a little to speak of this possibility before Munster even play their last group game but if we don’t address the matter now, it may be too late. You have been warned.

Lucky gal

NOTHING says ‘I love you’ quite like phoning in a few bomb threats to your girlfriend’s school just so she can get out of class early, as the old saying goes.

That was the course of action taken by lovesick puppy (and complete looney tune) Christopher Wiley in Pennsylvania, USA, who caused his lucky girlfriend’s school to be evacuated 13 times over the space of eight days.

“What’s the problem there?” says you.

“None at all, just a bit of craic.” says I.

But those right-wing nuts in America don’t take kindly to the odd love-inspired bomb threat, it seems, as they threw poor old Chris into the slammer for his antics.

What an over-reaction. I mean he didn’t even blow up the school. Not once.

Thank the gods the authorities on this side of the Atlantic are a little more understanding when it comes to the crazy hijinks of a man in love. I’ll tell you, if I was flung behind bars every time I rang in a bomb threat, kidnapped a beloved pet or wrote a love letter in my own blood just to impress the object of my affections, I’d have my own suite in Limerick Prison.

Sweet nothings

SPEAKING of sacrifices made in the name of love, one unlucky Chinese lady will be hearing sweet feck all - as opposed to sweet nothings - for a while after a supposedly inoocent smooch caused her to lose her hearing in one hear.

Such a powerful kisser was her boyfriend that he caused the pressure in her mouth to reduce, pulling her eardrum out and causing the breakdown of her ear.

Thankfully, her hearing should be back to normal in three months time, the lady’s doctor pointed out between guffaws of laughter.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

To Russia for love

On an almost daily basis, I receive an email from a different misfortunate Eastern European sexpot begging for financial aid to help her and her poor, misfortunate family in these tough economic times. In exchange for my largess, they also extend an invitation to join them in their freezing little village where they will express their gratitude. I think it's time to take them up on the offer.

This is Elena, she lives with her mother and 7-year-old daughter in Russia, she found my email address on the internet apparently. My beloved Elena is currently suffering through one of the coldest ever Russian winters and all she wants is a portable stove heater to heat her daughter and old mother.

She says I can send her one if I want but that it would actually be cheaper just to send her the €192 and she'll buy it herself. Already she's looking to save me a little money, what a darling!

She lives 200km from moscow and it's meant to be very cold but I'll send the money for the heater on ahead, so by the time I arrive to take my place as the patriarch of my new Russian family, herself and the mother should have the thing installed and on full blast.

Anyway it may be a while before you see any more updates here as Elena says there's no electricity in her village. That has left me a little confused about how she got my email address and had access to the internet but I suppose only a true fool searches for reason in the ways of love.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Blog awards announced. Vote fixing undeniable

My fellow Leaderite Alan Owens has been nominated for the Irish blog awards while still only in his blogging infancy.

Leaving aside the highly contentious issue of my non-inclusion on the shortlist, let me offer my hearty congratulations to Alan and of course to the elders of the local blogging community, most notably Bock and Squid but most, most notably Dick.

The full list of nominees is available here.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Death Metal Baby

Death metal has traditionally been the preserve of white, middle class, Cookie Monster-voiced dweebs who are still angry at their dad, such as this delightful chappy.

However, the genre got an shot in the arm last week with the emergence of this little legend. Already he's better than 99.99999% of his peers. His debut album, "Satan's soother" is due out in the first quarter of 2009. Enjoy!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Why does drunken old Gazza still get more attention than the Gaza Strip?

“‘SURVIVING Gaza’. That must be a programme about the Palestinians getting bombed,” said one of my housemates, as he caught the very end of a TV ad for a Channel 4 programme.

Having caught the full ad, however, I regretfully informed Leo that the programme was in fact called ‘Surviving Gazza’, a programme about the bloodsucking Gascoigne family who decided the best way to tackle their father’s horrid alcohol and mental problems was to make a warts-and-all documentary about putting up with him.

Paul Gascoigne’s every fall from the horse has been plastered across the tabloids for the last number of years. However, if he still experiences rare moments of lucidity, it must have really hurt to see his ex-wife and kids pile on a little more shame by allowing the media even greater access to his car crash of a life.

Now those familiar with his glamour model daughter, Bianca (not his real daughter by the way but hey, the lads mags are far more likely to give a call if you hold onto that surname) won’t be too surprised that she will do almost anything to keep the media spotlight on herself and her inflated chest.

But it seems Bianca didn’t lick her attention-craving ways from the rocks, as proven by her mother and brothers’ complete willingness to describe Gascoigne’s fall from grace in intimate detail to the cameras.

Even the youngest of the family had no problem saying for the cameras that he hoped he never saw his father again, a statement gobbled up by the red-tops and emblazoned across front pages days in advance of the programme’s screening.

And it’s this aforementioned gobbling and emblazoning that has me put out more than anything else. The fact that tabloids are more than willing to convey every tragic detail of a tragic loser’s life as he hurtles towards its premature end, all in the name of increasing circulation.

Not for a second am I suggesting that Gazza is a victim - that he is a spoilt, abusive alcoholic is undeniable - but he has seemed fully capable of making his life miserable enough in recent years without needing any additional help.

If Leo hadn’t been mistaken and the documentary had been a look at what it’s like to live under the constant threat of lethal bombardment in Gaza, I wonder would it have been as well-watched? Would the papers have mentioned any of the programme’s details anywhere other than the TV listings?

Of course not. The embarrassing and private details about how a once talented footballer has drank himself insane and will soon drink himself into the grave, as told by his family, is far more entertaining than the slaughter of hundreds of innocents.

And this is just one example of sensational nonsense trumping actual news.

For two days this week on Sky News, the top story was that Prince Harry had said something ignorant and insensitive - but in no way malicious - three years ago, by calling a close colleague of his in the army his “Paki friend”.

Another video showed him saying to a friend that he looked like a “raghead”. Again, his words were insensitive but by all accounts, the term is one commonly used by many soldiers to describe the enemy in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq and not assigned to each and every citizen of the country which they are - in theory - protecting.

A third video showed him making a mock phone call to his grandmother in which he signed off saying; “God save you” which - in fairness to Harry - is just funny.

But the reaction to the release of these videos has had self-righteous commentators and even the Prime Minister lecturing from atop their high horses as if a 21-year-old man saying something stupid was completely unheard of before now.

If it’s dumbass observations from young males that make headlines these days, then my friends and I could give the tabloids enough material for months in one evening if they’d like to call around.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Life ain't fair (RIP Jeremy)

Robert Mugabe, Osama Bin Laden, Michael Bolton. Three truly evil men, all of whom almighty Xenu hasn't yet seen fit to take from this earth and yet a few days ago, the fecker sent my fish Jeremy to the great fishbowl in the sky without a thought.

My friend Steve and I were joint custodians of Jeremy for many joyful months. Never once did he complain about having to be kept in a frying pan when we washed his bowl. Nor did he mind when we accidentally dropped the odd household item into his home.

Not one sign of jealousy did he show when we introduced him to his new brother, Superhans. In fact, he almost jumped out on to the floor such was his excitement at greeting his new bowlmate.

And now he's gone and Bolton's still banging out the hits.

I swear, it's times like these I start to doubt whether Xenu really did bring billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes.

Here's a picture of Jez from back in the good ol' days (with Steve in the background).

And here's a classy silhouette pic I took of Jeremy while he watched TV, oh how he loved the soaps.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Sigur Ros makes everything alright

THERE I was in Penney’s, queuing up like all the other decent human beings, socks and jocks in hand (I’ve yet to find a brand that can match Primark for comfort while also allowing full range of motion to my sizeable thighs).

At least 20 shoppers - each of them bearing their own haul of cheap undies - separated myself and the counter but thankfully I was prepared for the inevitable wait.

Planning ahead, I had packed the ipod which meant I would’t have to listen to the horrid 14-year-old in front of me tell her gaggle of nodding dominions what an intolerable wench her mother was for ringing to see when she’d be home.

“So she was like ‘When you will be home for your dinner?’ and I was like, ‘God mom would you just relax, I’ll be home later, don’t you have anything else to do besides annoy me? Just leave me alone.’”

Honestly, if one of my future offspring ever responded like that to an offer of free food, the locks at home would be changed and the door slammed in their face faster than they could say “Daddy I’m sorry”.

Before I had to listen to anymore of the poisonous rant, I slipped in the earphones, closed my eyes and the Hulk was kept at bay for another while.

Sigur Ros makes everything alright.

I released a long, loud exhalation of relief which caused everyone within earshot to get more than a little alarmed, but they all calmed down upon realising that my hands were in full view and inactive.

The queue moved along nicely, while Vicky Pollard resumed her bitchfest which was now thankfully drowned out by the far more pleasant sounds being played in my ear.

And then, just as I had relaxed into the rhythm of the queue, out of nowhere comes this line-jumping old tart, taking her place at least five spaces above me. I briefly considered strangling her with the socks but abandoned my plans after remembering that Penney’s frown on that kind of thing, especially if you haven’t paid for the socks.

Then I hoped that the little teenage horror in front of me may have had some bark to go with her bite but she was still so consumed by what an absolute gimp her mother was that she hadn’t even noticed the infringement.

Now before I proceed any further, I should point out that I’m actually quite a chivalrous sort, holding doors for ladies, giving up seats on the bus and all that. But this one was taking liberties, presuming that because she was an elder of the female tribe, she could just land herself anywhere in the queue, regardless of how long the others had been waiting.

After establishing that all the other cowards in the line had no intention of pulling the invader up on her offence, I hit her with the normally effective tactic of making several loud, indignant snorts while attempting to fix her with a beady stare.

Unfortunately she’d obviously done this before though, as she gave off the impression of being completely oblivious to the beady-eyed snorter a few spaces behind her.

Okay Skippy, you want to dance, I can dance.

If the snorts weren’t going to work, I had no option but to pull out the big guns. I started barking out some of the angriest coughs Penney’s has heard it quite some time. It’s a genuine mystery how someone didn’t call security such was the anger conveyed in my throat-clearing.

But still no reaction. This conniving little old lady may have been a pensioner but she had a poker face that would put Doyle Brunson to shame.

It was clear to me now that full-blown confrontation was the only answer. She’d skipped her last queue. Time to pay the piper Granny, and for the record, the piper is going to buy six pairs of socks and two pairs of large boxers before you get to that counter.

“Excuse me? Sorry, excuse me? Sorry, m’am? Sorry,it’s just that there’s a..”

As reprimands go, this wasn’t up there with the best of them. So sheepish were my attempts to get Skippy’s attention that she hadn’t even heard me, even though I’d apologised to her three times already.

“Sorry miss, there’s a queue behind you miss.”

That’s more like it, now you’ve got your gander up. Give her hell Hogan!

“Excuse me m’am but you have skipped a queue. Just because you tick the Old and Female boxes doesn’t entitle you to free passage at every turn you know.”

But it was too late, she’d already made it to the till and had paid for her goods leaving me standing there, now fuming, and looking to those around me like someone who goes around shops abusing pensioners for sport.

Back in go the earphones.

Sigur Ros makes everything alright.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

O, to be a wandering mongrel

O Lord, isn’t it just wonderful to be back at work? I can’t think of anywhere in the world I’d rather be than at my desk on this Monday morning as the rest of the world continues to nurse its festive hangover.

My walk to work this morning was along a deserted O’Connell Street. Gone were the usual cast and crew of screaming school children, friendly lollipop ladies, depressed office workers and stroppy-looking college students.

Along the way, I met only a wandering mangy mongrel, whose frothy jaw dropped in shock at the sight of a lone worker walking into the office at 7.30 in the morning on December 29.

“What are you looking at dog? I got Christmas and St Stephen’s day off, some of us have to actually work for our wages, we can’t all be bloody teachers you know,” I snapped.

The scraggly mongrel looked a little hurt at my outburst so I apologised and offered him the remainder of my toast but kept the last bit of cheese to myself. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that.

“I’m fine thanks,” he declined. “I’ve got three turkeys buried in People’s Park and I’m off to collect a fourth now from an old woman down on Ballinacurra Road.”

I momentarily considered joining the dog on his travels for turkey. How bizarre would that have looked? A man in a shirt and tie, turning up at your front door on all fours with a manky, soaking dog.

“We’re here for the turkey m’am.”

Wouldn’t it be grand though? Flouncing around the place with all the other carefree canines, collecting castaway turkeys at every open bin, not to mention being able to scratch wherever and whenever the mood struck you.

Have you ever noticed how satisfied a dog looks while having a good scratch? I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever felt that level of satisfaction.

The more I thought about it, the more attractive an option a dog’s life seemed. A return to nature, no more 9 to bloody 5, no more deadlines, getting up when you wanted, going to sleep when you felt like it, roaming the streets, chasing cars, barking at children, biting the particularly annoying children.

What part of that doesn’t sound like fun?

I dropped my bag and spun around to call the dog back but he had already bounded 100 yards down the road, head held high, his tail wagging vigorously at the thought of the half-eaten turkey in Ballinacurra with his name on it.