Humour Technology

Set Your Child to ‘Record’

Ho Ho. Time again for one of my jolly Christmas tirades. About now it is as seasonal as robins roasted on an open fire to advertise toys to kids. Is Wrong. It’s like marketing flight to penguins. Children cannot actually buy toys, no matter how hard they try. These commercials should not be shown until the kids are in bed, like those for other drugs.

Not all toy adverts are aimed at children though. I saw one for a vast Fisher-Price toddler entertainment unit, obviously aimed at parent rather than off-sprog. Its slogan was “Oh the possibilities!” It didn’t really mean “Think of the possibilities of the great big shiny  thing with loads of knobs to push!” It meant “Think of the possibilities for your little baby if you buy them all this crazy stimulating plastic shit they’ll grow up to be something clever and successful like a surgeon or a lawyer!”

Or even an advertising executive. Give the kids enough brightly-coloured stuff that makes noise, the sales pitch goes, and they’ll grow up to be hyper-intelligent Übermenschen. Bollocks. For once I agree wholeheartedly with Steven Pinker, you can’t stimulate kids into brilliance by throwing money at them. The difference between ‘to play with’ and ‘to understand’ may just be a matter of degree, but what is there in a baby-crawler to understand? Nothing. Kids learn not by twirling pointless plastic things but by interacting with others. These so-called ‘educational’ toys though are often put to quite the opposite end – keeping kids out of adult hair. You can’t help but wonder if they have anything to do with the apparent rise in autism.

So toy commercials should perhaps be kept away from the more impressionable parents too. Thankfully the technology now exists. Hard disc video recorders can serve up your evening’s viewing with all the adverts edited out. (No you can’t buy the TiVo here, but you can set up just the same thing using a computer.) At last, commercial-free viewing will be a possibility. All channels will be like the BBC. Except without all the adverts for the BBC.

Unless the advertising industry ban it. They’re trying. The ads, they say, pay for the programs. Therefore if you’re editing out the commercials, you’re watching the programs without paying for them. Not watching adverts, they’re trying to argue, is theft. Hmm. Gives the phrase ‘Pay attention’ a whole new meaning. By the same logic, channel surfing or turning the sound down during the commercial breaks is also stealing from the broadcasters.

So you won’t be able to protect your kids from the toy adverts. In fact unless you want them to be criminals, you’ll have to force them to watch. Don’t look away dear, you’re stealing from Barney.

See you next week. Don’t touch that dial! (Under penalty.)

Humour Politics

We Name the Mystery TD!

Rumours were flying at the time that a FF politician had received a secret payment of over a million from someone in business, but libel laws prevented us from naming him. I think it is safe to say, 15 years later, that the person concerned was a certain Charles J. Haughey.

I’m going to do it! I’m going to name the mystery Fianna Fáil TD! Yes, in print, right here – and I don’t care if they sue!

I name him Edna. It’s a nice name, no? Edna the mystery TD.

Our libel laws are such fun. We’re only talking about rumours here, but you can’t report what the rumours are – even if you add that personally you disbelieve them. They’ve happily said on radio that the name of a “very prominent Fianna Fáil TD” is being bandied around. To this we can add the fact that we are, presumably, talking about a millionaire here – unless he spent the lot. But you can’t say “so obviously they mean Edna.”

It’s getting lovely and baroque. People are not just denying that this or that person received cash, they’re denying that they’ve even heard rumours that this or that person did or did not receive cash. Allegedly. You’ve got to be careful in print. This is because, you see, the printed word has authority.

Bollocks. The big difference between slander and libel is that if you just say something you can turn around and deny you ever did. If you set it in type and distribute several thousand signed copies, you’re digging your own grave.

And you definitely can’t use the word ‘corruption’. People can give as much money as they like to other people, even politicians. They’ve a right to. And they can do it in secret if they wish, and they don’t need to ask for a thing in return. People often give you cash for no reason whatsoever, don’t they? There’s absolutely no grounds to assert that these donations represent any distortion of the democratic system, just because some people have more money than others and they’re kind enough to give it to the people who make the laws. It’s necessary for democracy, if we want well-run, efficient political parties. I hope that makes everything clear.

Or put it another way: “Don’t sue me.”

Just a second… They can only sue you if you’ve got something to lose. And I, am completely flat broke. In fact I owe a bit to the revenue commissioners, which is actually extra insurance. The tax man gets first shout in bankruptcy cases, so even the property I own (a portable stereo and four shelves of books) wouldn’t go to anyone who sued me.

Prison? Yeah, I could end up in jail I suppose. But three square meals a day, regular sleep and no pubs is just what the doctor ordered for me right now. I mean literally. He said if somebody else had done to my body what I’d done to it myself, they could be charged with assault.

So I’m sue-proof, I can say any damn thing I like! Great. It’s about time it was said out loud, once and for all, that [CENSORED].

Oh yeah, the paper’s still got something to lose, I forgot that. This is a problem. But I’m a publishing company now, (more on this next week), so maybe I should run off a few thousand copies and distribute them personally. That’d be a heroic act. I can just see myself handing out these bits of paper bearing the huge, dark secret.

And everybody will say “But I knew that”, and I’ll have to explain that by writing down something everybody knows on a piece of paper, I’ve achieved a great moral victory at huge risk to myself. And they’ll look at me like I was very strange.

As I write, Bertie Ahern is on the radio arguing – somehow – that the alternative to political donations is dictatorship. Jesus… Okay, okay, please don’t declare a dictatorship. We’ll do anything. How much do you want?

Humour Politics

Galway’s First Sex Shop. Aw

polygamy-femaleBridie O’Flaherty¹ warned us last week that a shop which sells vibrators will attract undesirables. Hmmm… Apparently the most frequent purchasers of these things are actually long‑distance lorry drivers – male ones. Not because the job makes them kinky about vibrations, but in the belief that such ‘marital aids’ will help their wives remain faithful to them while they’re on the road.

Interesting that they don’t seem to purchase reciprocal devices (if that’s the phrase I want) for themselves. One can only assume that they find a different method of remaining faithful. Or perhaps Bridie is right, they’re simply undesirable.

This leads neatly back to my campaign against divorce. Last week I pointed out that the whole idea was fundamentally illogical, and the only sane option was polygamy. I should mention here that in practical terms the situation would be little different from divorce, in that separated partners would need nobody’s permission to enter into new marriages. Thus it would be a way to avoid the divisive process of having a referendum, (the constitution doesn’t even mention polygamy), and in principle we’d still have lifelong marriage. Instead of just lifelong alimony.

With polygamy however you wouldn’t necessarily need to be separated in order to marry someone else. Not that the husband, say, could wander in one day with a brand new wife. (‘Darling, meet Darling. Darling, Darling.’). Once two people are married, they both have to agree to any addition to the partnership. Presumably a certain amount of bargaining would occur. She may well insist on an extra husband too. Or something more useful. The point is that all parties have to consent, because they’re all going to be married to each other.


With everyone having a veto like that it’s unlikely that many marriages would end up with more than a handful of members. On the other hand though, with the gradual addition over time of younger partners, a marriage could go on indefinitely. This ‘extended marriage’, being both voluntary and yet binding, would become a far more stable core unit of society than the old extended family ever was. It could be the saviour of social cohesion.

Okay, I could write a book on this new system. Maybe I’ll get into further details at another time; meanwhile, feel free to write to me with any faults you see in the design. I bet you won’t find one though. This is the best of all possible systems. It’ll work.

It’ll happen.

On a related topic, I was glad to see that in a recent survey, 21% of teenagers claimed to be sexually experienced. That’s very reassuring – when I was that age there’s no way 79% of us would have dared own up to being virgins.

But back to important matters, we have to halt this referendum campaign. You know what the real purpose of putting the conditions for divorce in the constitution is, don’t you? So that individual TDs will be able to say “I didn’t bring in this divorce law. The people did.” In other words it’s a neat trick to avoid accountability in government.


Clever swines. And having got away with it once, they’ll soon be using it for every controversial measure that comes along. It’s a recipe for a form of dictatorship. A representative government has to find working compromises, please enough of the people enough of the time. For a referendum you only need 50% plus one to think it’s quite a nice idea, and it doesn’t matter a damn if the other not-quite-half hate it with every fibre of their collective being. What if PAYE payers got up a campaign to constitutionally gas people on social welfare? It could happen.

So in principle I’m against the idea of messing around with the constitution for political ends. But I guess if you can’t beat them, get the boot in first. I propose a referendum: Give the cash of the richest 25% of the population to the rest of us.

It can’t fail. Let’s start collecting signatures.

  1. I’ll just say she wasn’t our most liberal local politician.
Humour Politics

No to Divorce

CRISIS. Galway September 1995. Supply of one of city’s vital resources virtually exhausted. Situation in danger of spiralling irrevocably out of control if action not taken immediately. (Note to Bureau Chief: Where the hell’s my plane ticket?)

marriageI refer of course to the shortage of rented accommodation. An annual problem, yes, but every year the system is pushed closer to collapse. One leviathan queue has its tail at the station, its head in Church Lane and a tentacle grasping every available public telephone. With the ever-growing popularity of UCG the unthinkable finally appears to be happening: there may be more college places than beds available. Hundreds of students could be left to roam the streets, with all-too-foreseeable consequences.


Only one solution: people are just going to have to sleep together more. It saves so much space. Of course many people now searching desperately for a room of their own would much prefer to be sharing one, but by themselves they could take forever. This is a crisis, and something must be done to accelerate the process.

Therefore UCG ought immediately to run social gatherings purely for the purpose of getting people off with each other. Where are they going to stay while these gatherings are in progress? No problem, the party can simply go on all night – and all day and all night for about a week. If after that you haven’t managed to get heavily involved with somebody, you’re not trying.

And those sad souls who are too serious about study for a social life? Well they give extra points for doing the Leaving through Irish, so there could be bonuses for a degree done through a haze of sexual delirium. Yes it is the college’s responsibility. Getting it together is one of the main reasons people go; UCG takes advantage of this without doing a thing in return. And isn’t it a vital part of the education and development of the individual? Let’s face it, most people are crap at relationships. Quite simply the modern person is just too damned lazy to put in the kind of intensive practice that such an undertaking deserves. They really think they can just wander in and get it right first time. No wonder they end up wanting divorce.

And divorce is not the answer; it just doesn’t make sense. The law cannot stop marriages disintegrating anyway, all it can do is insist that people tidy up before they leave – and with judicial separation we’ve got that already. The only practical difference divorce makes is that it allows separated people to legally marry again. And why would they want to?

Why does anyone? Security. Life is uncertain, so we try to build our futures on the most unshakeable foundations that all the powers of state and church can provide. We can’t trust love and we can’t trust each other; for real peace of mind, we need the backing of sanctions. And people who have seen life go horribly wrong once are no less eager – are perhaps particularly determined – to make the unbreakable contract that marriage entails.

Or would entail, if there wasn’t divorce… Catch 22. The only point of divorce is to enable you to remarry, the only point of marriage is that it’s irrevocable. There is simply no way to square this circle.

Except one. Polygamy.


Yes; keep indissoluble commitment – just let people make more than one. Why not? I can understand you having a certain resistance to the idea; probably the first thing the word brings to mind is Saudi princes who get a new wife when they don’t have quite enough spare cash for another racehorse. But I’m talking here about polygamy with sexual equality. That’s never been tried before, but I’ve thought it through and it would work. It would change society out of all recognition, but it would work. I’ll explain in greater detail next week – but feel free to start campaigning in the meantime.

No to divorce. Marry early and marry often.


Some Sort of an Introduction

So what is this thing called ‘Microcosmopolitan’? I’ll explain. Some years back I was challenged to describe Galway in one word. I cheated. I made the word up. It’s a hybrid of cosmopolitan and microcosm, because Galway is pretty damned interesting (Yes, this is your feel-good column), but at the same time small and self-contained. Almost a city-state, or as the Ancient Greeks called it, a polis. And at about fifty thousand in population it has now grown to the size which, if I remember correctly, Plato thought ideal: big enough for strength and diversity but still small enough to govern itself effectively.


Therefore the place would run like clockwork – if we had real self-government. The Greek idea was to do it by a sort of jury service, for the population to actually make decisions for themselves. The only decision we get to make is choosing councillors from the people political parties choose for us to choose from. Fix, or what? Not that the council has that much power anyway – I think they get to decide the colour of the parking wardens’ uniforms. Most decisions are made by the City Manager, appointed by Dublin.

Only one solution. Yep, our own flag and navy, why not? And some of those cruise missile things.


So before I get carried away, this is the idea: Just as some papers will have a reporter in Zaïre, say, who sends back idiosyncratic personal sketches meant to inform you about what’s going on there, we have a correspondent right here at home. Saves a fortune on phone bills. And even if it never tells you anything new about Galway, it’ll make you realise how little you really know about Zaïre.

And we want to get this old-fashioned Graham Greene overseas reporter feel just right; therefore, your correspondent has gone native, got himself mixed up in bizarre local rituals and practices, and appears from his dispatches to be rapidly losing his grip on civilised reality. No need to thank me, it’s all part of the service.


Okay, now back to getting carried away. Yeah, cruise missiles are great. Any weapon inspired by a Chuck Jones cartoon is okay by me. It’s true, don’t you remember? In Daffy Duck; those Acme rockets that screech to a halt behind the victim, tap him on the shoulder and wait for him to turn around before blowing him to hell? Some US general saw that one night while ‘studying the military applications of psychedelic drugs’ and went “Yeah! Let’s have some of those babies!”.

But weapons that hit what they’re supposed to have to be an advance on ones that annihilate a whole general area. When it’s improved to the point where war becomes a matter of picking off the other side’s Marshalls and Presidents personally, that should be about the end of it.


Of course, they sometimes go and put nuclear warheads on cruise missiles anyway, which makes about as much sense as sending a nuclear letter bomb. In fact when you consider that they cost a million dollars apiece, it’s more like sending one by Interflora, with a nice note. I think Galway can get by without a nuclear deterrent, though France has been kind enough to offer us theirs¹. No thanks, we’re trying to give them up.

Which reminds me, there’s one thing I’ve always wondered about the need to test new nuclear weapons: What was wrong with the old ones, did they not work? If anybody out there is thinking of invading France, now might be a good time.

  1. A French nuclear-armed warship had recently visited, and been met with protest.

The First Column – Summer ’95

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Well that’s enough of summer for another decade. You know it’s the kids I feel sorry for. Not only will it seem like the summers were warmer when they were young, it’ll be true.

On the other hand it might be a trend, in which case it’ll boost tourism no end – and bankrupt the country. That’s right, didn’t you hear? Tourists cost the Western Health Board two million in excess of what it normally forks out. Apparently one of the many things tourists appreciate about Galway is our falling over. They come from all over the world to trip up here. And of course, collide with other vehicles when they forget which side to drive on because we, the British and – bizarrely – the Japanese all persist in going down the other side of the road from everybody else. One Councillor has proposed putting signs up all over the airports and ferry terminals to remind foreign drivers, presumably in all three hundred or so written languages there are in the world apart from English, Irish and Japanese. But I can’t see it making a lot of difference frankly. I mean, if a stream of oncoming traffic isn’t going to make you think, what is?

And it isn’t that the visitor just arrives from Germany say and blithely heads off down the wrong side of the road. At this stage, ‘Links, Links, Links’ is running through the head like a mantra, they’re trembling and sweating at the disorientating new experience, the subconscious is screaming this is all wrong this is a mirror I am actually driving backwards help! But soon they get used to it and begin to relax. After a few days in Ireland, it’s almost  like home.

And a few days after that, they pull out into a road merrily forgetting it isn’t home.

Speaking of causality, a concept from physics and a very common typing error for casualty, I was in there last week and the service was wonderful. Came in an ambulance with my foot all cut up, and they had me hobbling out again in less than an hour. You see I was walking around in the river, just by the Spanish Arch. Because I dropped my keys in. Don’t try it, it’s full of broken glass there. Of course I should have known that – only I hadn’t slept the night before and at the time nothing seemed more natural than to walk in the water. The way I felt, I almost walked on it. Anyway, I sliced a toe open right to the bone. Didn’t hurt much; in fact I was highly amused by the whole thing. “Hey, look at all this blood! Doesn’t it clash with the grass?” A couple of friends were down from Dublin, and I reckon I went to commendable lengths to entertain them. How often do you get a ride in an ambulance? Anyway, in casualty they X-rated my foot – not a typing error, that was on account of the gore – did it up with paper and glue, (yeah, paper and glue) and sent me off in high spirits.

Very high. Thanks to my lower brain’s mistaken idea that lack of sleep in combination with a deep wound meant I was in a war or something and needed all the chemical help I could get, I was feeling no pain. But they gave me painkillers anyway. (Actually, the injection of painkillers in the backside was the only part that did hurt.) So seeing as there was already a party going on in my body I went out, got drunk and stayed up until three in the morning. Did I ever mention that nobody will sell me health insurance?

You go and do something totally stupid, they give you an injection of really nice stuff. It’s no lesson in life, but it’s a great service and an entertaining way to spend the afternoon. No wonder it’s so popular with tourists.

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