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Archive for the ‘Humour’ Category

If  you don’t have a ‘real’ nativity to go to this year, complete with tinsel-haloed angels and grumpy four-year old consigned to playing stable animals, here’s the next best thing. Digital nativity.

There’s so, so much about this that makes me laugh, possibly more than it should. Google Maps and its ‘Avoid Romans’ route finder box. The way Mary emails Joseph in the manner of a thirteen year old waiting for her mates outside Claire’s Accessories in Dundrum. And, my favourite of all, @StarOf Bethlehem64’s Twitter profile: ‘Follow me to #worshipthebaby’.

So sit back, get your Kleenex ready, and prepare to enjoy the oldest story of them all:

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Living overseas, as I did for most of this decade, has all sorts of random benefits.  My favourite? From time to time, you get to experience the kind of thing that seems like it must have been made up for tourists, except that no tourists are within a 15-mile radius. At a trade fair in Anchorage one February (ever want to see the Pacific frozen over? Alaska in February’s a decent bet for that), I became entranced by an old man in a coat made from a bear he’d shot and killed himself. The man wasn’t that entrancing, nor is the fact that he’d shot the bear, per se. It was more that, you know, how often in your life are you ever going to meet a bear hunter, let alone one dressed for the sub-zero temperatures in a little number he’d skinned himself? I couldn’t stop stroking it (the COAT, you filthy people), much to the appalled amusement of my beloved colleague.

Last December, our final one in Dublin I had a similar moment. It didn’t involve culturally-appropriate clothing – no cloaks of finest peat for the Irish – but it was one of those things that had extra significance for happening in Ireland. I discovered that the *true* Irish national anthem is, in fact, this song:

I was in a cheesy club with some of my favourite people on the island. It was the early hours and, as they say here in a gloriously euphemistic manner, there had been drink taken. In other words, the entire place was full of rat-arsed Irishfolk holding each other up as they brought the place down. Right towards the end of the night, on came the Pogues (not literally, though that would have been an even better story). Every. Single. Person. in the room suddenly pulled themselves together, stood upright as if at Mass, and burst into pitch-perfect, declamatory, Shane-McGowan-style-swaying song. It made me beam, and beam, and beam some more. OK, so most people know some part of this song, but to be in an entire room of locals all belting it out as though Christmas depended on it; that was something I had no idea would happen.

It gives me goosebumps and makes me giggle every time I think about it. A year on, back in stiff-upper-lip England, we’ve got the song on permanent repeat this Christmas. Need to make sure our Irish-born three-year-old is word-perfect before his passport’s revoked, after all…

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Gold-digger Amnesty

Thoroughly depressed with the state of the nation, I decided to cheer myself up yesterday by listening to some nice, brainless pop music. I feel the qualifying adjective is important here, because there’s also very clever pop music out there, but that’s not of any use to me when I want myself opium’d up by dithering beats and sugarsnap lyrics, is it?

If there’s one thing stupid pop music has taught me, it’s that if there’s one career group more maligned than Fianna Fail politicians or IMFites, it’s gold-diggers. Yes. Young women (I calls ageism, for it appears biddies are disqualified from rushing men for the moolah) who are attracted to men more successful than themselves are terrible hussies altogether. Perhaps even responsible for a portion of our current economic woes! Gold-diggers: breaking bankers, one suit at a time.

See, I was bopping along to Cee-Lo Green’s wonderfully catchy “Fuck You” (“Forget You” to anyone still relying on the radio to get them their aural jollies) when I paused, took a breath, furrowed my brow. Cee-Lo’s complaint is that his ladyfriend left him for a much more affluent gentleman, one who owns a car and has no problem taking the lady for the odd spin in same. Seeing them spinning about the place makes Cee-Lo feel most disgruntled. If only he had the kind of money that could buy him a car! Then he could still be with the gold-digger, whom he still loves, but also really resents because she’s not turned on by penury.

At first I felt for Cee-Lo. As a wurkin’ class ladette, I understand how difficult it is to get by in life without a pot to piddle in. There’s, let’s see … underpaid jobs, holes in the arse of your pants, running out of restaurants without having paid and having to resort to getaway bicycles to avoid arrest. It’s a hard-knock life. I also know that there’s no law requiring a woman to get hot under the collar for a partner who’s just not cutting the wholegrain organic mustard when it comes to ambition and success. I’m much more likely to fancy a motivated, educated bright spark than a couch potato with a grudge; does that make me a gold-digger? I think not! Take that, Mr. Green!

Likewise, I am perplexed by Timbaland’s hip-pop song “The Way I Are”, which in a lyrical sense comprises of a gruff man barking out all of the reasons no one should touch him with a bargepole. “I can’t even buy you flowers!” he snaps, though without adding that he’s happy to grow or pick some instead. He is then mollycoddled by a husky female telling him that it’s grand, that so long as he’s got his mojo in the bedroom he can do without it in the real world, hinting that it’s more than his ego she’d like to massage. And this is just preposterous. You can’t reward the useless like that! Sure they’ll never learn if you keep telling them that despite their barely being able to afford the chips on their shoulders, catches of either gender will be only too happy to cast their kecks aside for a hop off them. Did I miss the memo about drive, integrity, and fiscal independence not being aphrodisiacs after all? No, I didn’t. Because they are. Huge big ones. Pulsating ones. Oh yes.

Hip-pop girls have retorted these points more melodiously than me, of course. Fado, fado (in the 90s), TLC, in their song No Scrubs, told layabout boys that they were going to have to do a little better than be roaring out random compliments from their mates’ cars if they wanted to pitch woo successfully; yet t’was far from gold-digging they were reared.

The funny thing is that hip-pop boyos have long rapped, yodelled and purred out the characteristics of their ideal ladyfriend, and having economic savvy, her own career, and half a brain were never on their To Do lists; gold-diggers are ok if you’ve got the money for them, but a right slap in the testicles if you’ve recently become a victim of the worldwide recession. Well, lads; reap the whirlwind. The gold-diggers have become accustomed to a certain level of achievement from their life-partners; there’s no point complaining about it now, not when she had to spend all that money on implants to impress your shallow arse in the first place.

Back to Cee-Lo, who pouts that his gold-digger’s new friend is “more an X-Box” while Cee-Lo himself is an “Atari”. I suppose he realises that Ataris were made redundant back in the dark ages. Certainly no amount of dewy-eyed sentimentality will convince me to trade in my next-gen console for one of them dinosaurs. And that doesn’t make me a gold-digger (or even a Digger T. Rock).

It makes me a prudent, prudent lady.

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Marmite Things

This morning, inspired by Catherine O’Flynn’s denunciation of Jaffa Cakes in the Anti-Room Questionnaire,  fellow Anti-Room editor Sinéad and I were discussing, along with regular commenter Colin Morris, the phenomenon of what Sinéad dubbed “marmite things” – the things that everyone else loves but that you hate.

Jaffa forever! Sorry, Jaffa haters.

Sinéad and Colin were on O’Flynn’s side against the delicious, tasty Jaffa, and indeed orange-chocolate combos in general, while I defended the combo of orangey goodness (well, it’s a fruit, right?), spongey cake and tasty choc. In fact, to me, this combination of chocolate and orange seems not only delicious, but completely logical. Chocolate is good. Orange is good. Why not combine them together?

But of course Jaffa Cakes aren’t the only things that seem bewilderingly popular to some people. I myself can’t understand why people get excited about Arcade Fire, whose first album was good but whose subsequent releases have just sounded like Bruce Springsteen (I also don’t understand why people love Bruce Springsteen, apart from his appealing persona, which isn’t enough to make me actually voluntarily listen to more than a handful of his songs). And I also hate Guinness. I’ve tried several times over nearly two decades and I will never, ever “develop a taste for it”, as was claimed in my late teens and early twenties. Same goes for olives, aka the world’s most foul-tasting food after coriander (though at least there’s a biological reason why the latter tastes like soap to lots of people, including me).

So what about you? What inexplicably popular and also highly acclaimed (as opposed to, say, Westlife) things do you loathe?

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Dear Anti Roomers and Readers,

I propose that we begin our own broadcasting awards for outstanding services rendered to the industry by many of our beloved household names.

The Ron Burgundy Broadcasting Awards would look to recognise and commend radio, print, TV and new media broadcasters and journalists who have given an outstanding performance in the following categories:

The Veronica Corningstone Award: for intrepid female reporting despite the odds.

Most Ron-Like Quote: for the broadcaster who says something that most sounds like something Ron Burgundy would say (probably to do with the size of womens brains or their ability to enjoy sex (bizarrely, Mr Fry would currently be in the running).

Broadcaster most like Ron Burgundy Overall (we may have to slightly alter this after a couple of years if Tom McGurk keeps waltzing off with 1st place).

Most Failed Attempt to be unlike Ron Burgundy: for the broadcaster who tries unsuccessfully to talk to/ about women (Shortlisted would have to be Ryan-“girls-women-I-don’t-know what you call em” Tubridy’s infamous item a few years back on how women shouldn’t be hiring home help and, of course, Ray Darcy for his pitiful attempt to talk about the positive side of breastfeeding).

Biggest Attempt to Set Equality Back: I don’t wish to pre-empt the voting or the many worthy nominations which are bound to flood in but I can say the team at Joe.ie should watch this space.

All writers and readers nominations are welcome.

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Happy Halloween!

TODAY is the day when spirits are let loose by divine dignitaries to mingle with the living and even the half living or those who are long dead but are still refusing to lie down. Not just ordinary ghosts either but sinful smelly souls – destined to return in the bodies of animals – black cats, dodgy donkeys, foaming-at-the-mouth dogs, etc. This year’s ghoul factor is on a special state of high alert with the addition of dozens of ghost estates, zombie hotels and abandoned train stations for never-to-be-built towns.

Originally Halloween sprang out of the celebrations of the Celtic/Druid pagans of our sumptuous shores, as well Scotland, Wales and Brittany. Every October 31st, these groups celebrated the return of winter, as well as honouring Samhain (not to be confused with salmon, another Irish export) a kind of Celtic lord of the dead geezer. On the feast of Samhain, the Celts celebrated by telling lengthy yarns about their ancestors. They also made desperate fraught attempts to glimpse into the future: a practice which has now been more or less replaced by tarot, angel card and aura readings, mediumship, psychotherapy and TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne.

Even the jack-o-lantern is all about an Irish manDe Oirish have played a huge part in Halloween right from the off. Even contemporary “jack-o-lantern” – popular in the US – was named in honour of an Irish blacksmith “Jack” who St. Peter refused into heaven and Satan barred out of hell. As a result, Jack’s spirit was doomed to rove the planet, with only a scabby coal from hell in his hollowed out pumpkin to light his pitiful passage. Even our “Help the Halloween Party!” childhood cry for a trough-load of e-numbers stretches back to the 17th century peasant tradition of darting about asking for gifts of food on Halloween in the name of St. Columbia, an Irish priest who established an early form of social welfare.

Another slant is the plastic Halloween masks that have their roots in Celtic myth and legend. Fearful folk wore disguises when heading outdoors on Halloween so roaming spirits, with a bone to pick with the living, wouldn’t recognise them. Celtic Druids dressed up in elaborate costumes to disguise themselves as spirits and devils so as to avoid real ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, werewolves and demons. This practice was later adapted into the wearing of balaclavas by the Provisional IRA and various gangland criminals during bank robberies. Swingers from Kildare – to this day – wear eye-masks in case business people and high-ranking legislators recognise each other in the course of sexual duty. Hmmmmm, nice!

A quick glance at this weekend’s papers discloses another startling Halloween phenomenon. Modern-day Irish folk believe in ghosts more than ever. It can even look super on your CV. Former Miss World Rosanna Davison admitted this weekend she was haunted by a young maid when a kid. ‘The model made the spooky Halloween confession as she told how she was left terrified after coming face to face with the spirit in her sprawling family home,’ the Irish Daily Mirror article read. “I saw the spirit of a young girl in my house when I was about 11 – it was in one of the downstairs back rooms and it was terrifying. I just stared at her for ages and my heart was racing but eventually I lost the bottle and ran away. Last year I discovered through the 1911 census online that the room where I saw the ghost was a young maid’s bedroom”.

Paul O’Halloran an ex-soldier from Connemara insists in The Sun that he’s ‘a strong connection with the other world as a result of a near-death experience in Lebanon’. Most of the dead souls that contact him are simply looking to be released, he reckons. “If there is a spirit or an energy in a house, I can remove these energies and help to heal the situation,” he said. He also told the newspaper how he can see ghosts in the most unlikely places, even when he’s taking time off to sup the pints. “I go for a pint and they come up and tap me on the shoulder. They’re just looking for help. If people die suddenly or with guilt, they often have a connection with a person or place and they don’t want to leave.”

Ghosts (taidhbhse) and general purpose dead things can also be very good for live business. Old pubs, haunted castles, spooky hotels and bog-standard bogs are all fodder for an industry that is flagging under the strain of recession. From Jonathan Swift’s mental hospital ghost in James’ Street to a bloodied butcher in the ruins of a house in North Dublin, years after he’d cut his throat in 1863…we just love to be petrified at any cost. The ghost of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh still haunts the Marsh Library (especially during the tourist season), sadly searching for a letter from his eloping niece. The Olympia theatre ghost never bores of following/floating around after actors in the staff dressing room during rehearsals. Eerie tales of a Cork poltergeist in a house in Hollyhill too (96fm covered the story). Every corner of Ireland is haunted and if it’s not, it soon will be. An international Paranormal Directory of Ghosts describes Irish ghouls as: ‘ranging in size from the nearly invisible to the huge, from tiny sprites to giant headless horsemen. Some of them are vengeful, some mischievous, some helpful.’ Hopefully this is useful while on the lookout later today.

Another story in the Irish Daily Mirror concerns psychic medium Angie Freeland, who claims she videoed a spirit moving a torch in the historic Wicklow’s gaol. It led to Angie’s Halloween ‘vigil’ selling out in record time. Angie dressed in the traditional costume of the gaol’s matron Mary Morris in the hope of drawing a reaction from the spirits. It allegedly worked as when Angie reached for the torch it chillingly moved towards her, sliding across the table on its own in the spooky schoolroom.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the intense paranormal activity since I first came to the gaol. Now the public can view the evidence for themselves,” she said. You can also ghost hunt 16-year-old Helena Blunden from the comfort of your DFS couch. She fell to her death from the stairs of a Belfast mill in 1912. The ‘live cam’ project on the Ireland’s Eye website has been on the go 24/7 since 1998 and is still visited by millions every year.

What’s left to say except happy apple bobbing, stay safe, eat plenty of Barnbrack. If you do happen to have Samhainophobia or other phobias such as fear of cats (ailurophobia), witches (wiccaphobia), ghosts (phasmophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), the dark (nyctophobia), and cemetaries (coimetrophobia), it might be an idea to stay indoors till Monday. But please do get in touch if you’ve a decent ghost story to share…

June Caldwell is a writer, who after 13 years of journalism, is finally writing a novel. She has a MA in Creative Writing and was winner of ‘Best Blog Post’ award at the 2011 Irish Blog Awards. You can read this post on her own blog here:

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I got myself my first smartphone recently, and my most-abused app so far is its little ebook reader, for which I have downloaded a delightful gloop of free classics. It’s a pleasingly tidy thing to be able to sit in the canteen in my office, reading chunky novels using only my right palm and thumb.

“Must be a bloody long text message,” said one of our managers, the other day.

“I’m reading a novel,” says I, pleased as a caramelised glutton. “I’m reading a novel ON MY PHONE.”

“Well, would you look at that! What are you reading?”

“Wuthering Heights.”

“Ah, classic. Speaking of literature, apparently Howard Jacobson’s just won the Booker for The Finkler Question.”

“Yeah, haven’t read it. I’m reading Wuthering Heights.”

“You’ve read it before?”

“Eight or nine times. Never ON MY PHONE though.”

Wuthering Heights, at this stage in my novel-gobbling career, has become rather a cosy duvet of familiar words and themes and characters that I’m loathe to cast off for unproven tomes. It’s an unhealthy thing; one should reach for the contemporary stuff when one intends to be a bit of said stuff herself one day. Wuthering Heights is a classic, true, but it’s also a guilty pleasure, and saying that about a standard of English literature comes across as mightily pompous.

“You enjoy chick-lit, you say? Love and romance and squishy stuff? Interesting. I suppose to well-read ladies such as mise fein, the classics are the no-brainers. Like, I consider the archetypical antihero Heathcliff to be my very own … er … my own *ahem* … Mr. D’Arcy.”

Because that’s what’s happened. As I’ve grown older, and stopped hanging around outside University libraries hugging my colour coordinated notebooks to my perky bosom and looking all intellectually adorable, the “flaws” of Wuthering Heights have become as apparent as janitors’ plans in a Scooby Doo adventure. I considered myself quite the little clever clogs when, at eighteen, I could genuinely nominate Emily Bronte’s gothic classic as my favourite book. While my friends succumbed to Marian Keyes and Ursula Le Guin, I scrambled up my own towering intellect and stood undulating in the hot air of its summit. I was an insufferable wally, in other words. Eleven years later, I’m starting to see cracks in the thing. Fissures. Christ, yawning chasms. And it upsets me greatly.

Where once there was a powerful story of oh-so-rosemantic consuming passion, now there is a deeply sinister tale of sociopathic vengeance. Where once was my deep respeck’ for the feisty Catherine, now festers an irritation at what an irrational hussy she was. Where once stood Heathcliff-my-Heathcliff, there now lies crumpled a right nasty fucker who you wouldn’t let clean out your eaves, let alone take pride of place in your boudoir. I once knew that Catherine and Heathcliff were the very best in star-crossed lovers, and now it seems that they were a right pair of selfish, whingey little sods with more money than sense and unfortunate access to damp, injurious weather whenever they wanted to prove a selfish, whingey point.

Don’t get me wrong; had I the detachment to intelligently critique Bronte’s masterpiece, I would still admire it, for Wuthering Heights is beautifully written, brilliantly plotted, and deep as any other novel you could care to mention. But I don’t have that detachment, and the result is that I’m terribly peeved by all I missed when I first devoured the thing. Who knew that Heathcliff was such an epic dick? Not me; I thought he was faithful love personified! No violent boor my Heathcliff; he was misunderstood, that’s all.

When I was eighteen, I thought of Heathcliff as proof positive that Bronte knew more about true love than anyone who’d ever lived. She knew my kind of man was a tortured saucepot who’d be unable to stop himself ravishing my waiflike self, even after all of the proud ice storms I fecked his way (he’d also have lots of mysterious money and a great big house). Now that I’m all growed-up, I dither between believing Bronte was a genius birther of characters superhuman in their flawed humanity, or that she was a wannabe sex kitten who’d have run away with the gypsies if her tuberculosis hadn’t hobbled her. I still can’t decide whether Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights as art, or masturbatory catharsis.

Plaster the plot of Wuthering Heights into a contemporary setting, package it and send it out for review, and you’d get some horrified squawks from the likes of me. There’s nothing sexy about petulant suicide and domestic violence, so redo that bodice, thank you very much, Ms. Bronte. For shame!

The moral of my story is: don’t read much-loved classics after coming of age. Those delightfully solid assumptions you made about the author’s intentions turn out to have iceberg arses. Those characters you befriended and made precious start to kick lumps out your insides. You start picking holes, and a duvet full of holes is no longer a cosy comfort, and certainly not suitable reading for break times in the canteen.

For God’s sake, I was reading Call Of The Wild the other day, and found myself wondering whether Jack London was into bestiality. That can’t be right!

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