Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Incredible Alternative

It was in the the relentlessness of Twitter this past Friday that I was made aware of Eamon Dunphy's concurrent appearance on The Late Late Show. As ever, the "maverick" broadcaster was causing quite the division of opinion, this time with his bleak assessment of Ireland's current predicament.

I usually have time for Eamon. Aside from enjoying his regular espousal of an agreeable sporting philosophy via RTÉ's soccer coverage, I always find his mediation of current affairs to be, at the very least, entertaining. It was then with some anticipation that I caught up with his Late Late appearance on the RTÉ Player. After watching, I was pleased to find that, once again, he had me thinking about the absolute "state" of the nation. But it wasn't toward the predictable scapegoats of Eamon's scorn that my antipathy was directed; instead, it was Dunphy's own skewed analysis of Ireland's woes.

His first criticism was of Ireland's current leader, who drew ire this week for attributing the country's plight to a period of "mad borrowing" at the World Economic Forum. Eamon suggested that Enda Kenny doesn't have a genuine grasp of the debt crisis. A fair point perhaps. The Taoiseach doesn't always inspire confidence. But what national leader does these days? As Eamon himself later surmised, the current crisis is an international phenomenon. It has left leaders all over the world bereft of any tangible solution. Such is the puzzle of economics, a speculative discipline that is often mistaken for being scientific. Indeed, the only consensus that has been reached so far is that the global economic crisis will require an international solution that relegates domestic politics to a secondary tier.

But Eamon seemed more interested in recruiting a new type of Irish politician who approaches international diplomacy as if it was a "war". Michael O'Leary was his first suggestion. This isn't the first time we've heard the Ryanair chief's name being touted as someone who would do a good job in politics. However, without questioning Michael O'Leary's business acumen, the ruthless CEO of a budget airline is not someone I consider sensitive to the disadvantaged and dispossessed. This is a guy who disallows staff from charging their phones on Ryanair premises. O'Leary has also termed the European Commission as "morons" and the European project in general as "The Evil Empire". Yes he is good at what he does and yes he is Irish. But this doesn't qualify him as some kind of negotiator. A more glaring example of the “green jersey” mentality would be hard to find.

Dunphy then explained that his yearning for this new type of Irish politician stemmed from his disillusionment with the current standard of public servants. Basically, Eamon is tired of teachers being tasked with politics. Enda Kenny is a teacher. Michael Noonan is a teacher. Micheál Martin is a teacher. Teachers are the problem? If this wasn't what he meant, then he should have explained him self better. Instead, he delivered a half-baked critique on the political class, merely serving to simplify their shortcomings in the most plastic of ways.

But it was in the eventual excursion into Eamon's own participation in a McDonald's ad that his populist, unfocused and frankly, ridiculous vision became clear. Admitting that he had "sold out", Eamon justified his partaking in this shit advertisement by exclaiming that he needed something to "pay the rent". The very "gimme gimme" culture that has landed Ireland in this mess is the one he exudes by lending his name to the world's premier fast food outlet. "It was good for them and it was good for me" he explained. What better phrase would describe the attitude of politicians, bankers, developers and builders in pre-bust Ireland?

The only semblance of controversy came when he exclaimed that Ireland is "a dump". More depressingly, this is what solicited the biggest backlash on Twitter where counter arguments were best encapsulated by the phrase "I'm proud to be Irish!". Why are we offended by someone calling Ireland a dump? It's a sentiment I hear expressed regularly in everyday discourse. And it's not just Irish people. People all over the world regularly chastise the country they are living in. In fact, I would defend to the hills anyone's right to call Ireland a dump. This soundbite was the least annoying thing about Dunphy's interview.

What is annoying is that Eamon was clearly brought on the Late Late Show to represent a view opposed to that of the status quo. And whilst he may have identified the problems we face with considerable accuracy, he was woefully incapable of communicating a coherent vision. Instead, we had to navigate through a plethora of mixed messages and double standards that left an alternative looking as incredible as ever.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January Blues: Live

There he is. The man himself. Mr Bryan O'Regan. Looks a little awestruck doesn't he? And well he should be; he's about to take to the stage to perform in Ryans' coveted open-mic session. But he'll be ok.

The real question is whether Ryans is ready for Bryan? Because he isn't getting up there to give his take on the jaded role of “singer-songwriter”; rather he is delivering a strange new adaptation of this blog's most recent entry- January Blues.

It ALL began last Monday night when Bryan showed up on my doorstep waving his new smartphone in my face. Accompanied by my dear friend Thomas, Bryan was boastful about how he had gotten such a good deal. I was keen to bring him back down to Earth.

Yeah yeah well done” I said. “You've sold yourself away to the illusion that your more communicable than ever but really all you have is a over hyped piece of plastic to delay the inevitable isolation of the hostile universe”.

Never a great listener, Bryan walked right past me and sat himself down at my kitchen table.

So I was down in Colm's today” he said while donning a wry smile. “And we we were thinking of doing some beat poetry in Ryans with that thing you wrote last week”.

Immediately exicited at the prospect of having something l wrote taken out of the blogsphere and into some sort of real-life situation, I was quick to express my approval.


It wasn't long before Bryan was reciting January Blues in the sort of way that made my dear friend Thomas and I want to shimmy around the kitchen in some lazy groove. I became ever more insistent that he get on stage.


The next night, after being laid low by Werner Herzog's Lessons of Darkness at Casa Del Michael Norton, I was treated to another rendition of the poem. This time Bryan was accompanied by the guitar wizardry of Colm O'Caoimh (Caladh Nua, RSAG). After several recitals, they seemed happy to let Ryans have it.

And so, on what was the quietest of Wednesday evenings, we ventured down to Friary Street's favourite haunt. With a few of Kilkenny's mid week stragglers in the audience, Bryan and Colm took to the stage and delivered their avant-garde piece. Their understated delivery was the perfect compliment to Ryans' sparse ambience.

Indeed, after trying to argue my way out of it for at least two hours, Bryan even managed to convince me to stand in between them and provide the poem's customary “pop”. Needless to say, I felt like a bit of a spare tyre. But the comedic element was certainly worth it.

Afterwards, they performed another poem based on an email Bryan had gotten from a female friend. Let's just say Ryans' open-mic will never be the same...

I managed to get a recording of January Blues by Bryan O'Regan and Colm O'Caoimh earlier in the night.

You can have little listen here-

Monday, January 2, 2012

January Blues

With 2012 now in official residence, you once again find yourself facing the annual challenge of surviving the post Christmas winter. More than any other time in the twelve month cycle, this time constitutes the most severe anti-climax in the societal vibe. So if you find yourself feeling a little deflated, you shouldn't be afraid to say so. After all, only a lucky few escape the January blues.

New Year's Day was the end of any fleeting attempt to hold onto the notion that you're still on holidays. You dug through the memories of New Year's Eve, wondering how you managed to spend so much money on those extra drinks that you really didn't need. You may have a few more days before you go back to work, college or the day to day struggle of unemployment. But it was in the scant daylight of January 1 that you realised that the holiday bubble had burst.

As the Christmas lights are taken down over the grey streets of your town, you may find yourself wondering what you should do now. And who could blame you? You've just spent three months being bombarded by the relentless commercialism of the holiday season, and now you find that previously championed items of materialism can be yours at a lesser expense to your volatile finances. But they don't seem so alluring anymore. Not without all the tinsel and jingle bell music. Indeed, with the woes of economic illness now firmly established, “January Sales” sounds more like the last desperate plea of a consumerism that can't accept that it's had its day.

Already the terms “downturn” and “debt crisis” are resuming their premier positions in the dreary news bulletin. Google isn't tracking Santa's sleigh anymore and dog pounds are being filled with pooches suffering the consequences of people's failure to grasp the age old proverb that begins with “A puppy isn't just for..”

Your emigrant friends have returned to the places that they spent most of Christmas describing to you with a wondrous glow in their eyes. “There's no place like home” now reads like some kind of disingenuous jibe that mocks the precarious foundations of your speculative career path. In destitute January, you may feel like you have more in common with the recent hysterics of the North Koreans than those few lucky enough to have the elusive “plan”.

In the next few days, you will find yourself reacquainting with people somehow absent from your Christmas mingling. Most of them will probably tell you they had a “quiet one”, conjuring up images of them sipping on a solitary glass of wine beside their modest Christmas tree. Those people were way too sensible to have gotten themselves involved in the spendthrift shenanigans of your hazy holiday. You wish you had their foresight.

Others will approach the new year under the desperate guise of “keeping the best side out”. They'll be all smiles and chat, informing you of their “wonderful” Christmas. They'll have probably got a new pair of jogging runners, complimented by a “really handy” new contraption to strap their ipod into. You'll be hard pressed to hear any “negative” (to you: honest) words from their mouths. Instead they'll be coping with the January blues contented in the knowledge that the new “The Secret” book has instructed them to think positively all the way to the promised land. You won't be able to relate to these people. Not because you don't appreciate the power of positive thinking, it's just that anyone who's fooled themselves into being positive at this time of year is clearly best left to themselves.

If you're lucky though, someone will be honest enough to tell you that they're feeling just as blue as you. Together, with an "all you can do is laugh" attitude, you will share the way through this miserable experience. Who knows, you might even enter into a pact, whereby you hold each other accountable for doing something just a little better than 2011. And then, as January changes to February, and the ones who had a “quiet Christmas” crumble under the boredom of their self-imposed sanctuary, and the “positive” fetishists succumb to the absurdity of their naive faith, life may seem that little bit more tolerable.