Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Links

For those chained to a desk today:

The Guardian's coverage

The New York Times

Streaming webcasts:





Official Inauguration Site

For a laugh, Fox

And since, well, why not - here's RTE (I wouldn't hold your breath).

Right. Kids need to go to school.


There's a good overview of streaming links up at lyvegyde. Some of the links (such as Hulu) are territorial US only, but there'll be something worth watching. (Cheers to Jane for the info).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Good Ideas That I Wish I'd Thought of First

Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet 2008

- This might be a one-off thing, but it is very pretty.

New Idea, continued

So those were all the columns what I wrote.

I'm going to start making changes to this blog. I'll be putting up links to work I've done and doing the occasional column-style piece, because they're fun, and nobody's hiring me to do one anywhere else, to be frank.

The name is going to have to change, too. I'll try not to overthink it, but that and the overall design of the blog will alter over the next few weeks. Wish me luck in my new respectability. In the meantime, have a look at this clip from one of my favourite speakers:

I'm about 2 hours into this strategy...

September 2008

This was my very last column for Totally Dublin. It is more or less the most factually correct one I've ever done. Whether that's a good thing or not I'll leave to you, but it was one of the few times I stood in the middle of an unfolding situation and through the tears thought: 'Well, at least I can use this for a column.

At this point I gave up writing the column. I would have liked to go on - I think I was improving - but it got to the point where I hadn't been paid for over a year. Eventually I received 40% or so of what I was owed, but I'm still waiting for the rest. I reckon it'll be about the same time as the Rapture.

I figured that if I was going to write for a living (which is what I'm now trying to do), I ought to give my work a certain level of respect. Meaning: my stuff may not be everyone's taste, it may not even be any good, but if I don't decide that it's worth actually getting paid for, then no-one else will. I could probably have continued writing the column and other feature pieces, but I'd never get much money from them - certainly not enough to survive on. Meaningful work means not just doing a job you enjoy, but being paid a reasonable wage for it, I think. Few people ever get rich from journalism, but I think it's fair enough to aspire to pay the bills, at least.

So here it is:

September 2008

September 2008

5.30am. ‘This passport is out of date’ will not make you happy. Unless you’re being extraordinarily renditioned.

At the check-in desk we discover our youngest son’s passport has run out. We knew this last year, we think. A nice lady looks at us like the sort of ne’er do wells who shouldn’t be in charge of a banana. She suggests one of us goes ahead with the bags and eldest, while the other takes our youngest to get an emergency passport and catches a later flight. There’ll be a charge, but apparently ‘this happens all the time’.

I volunteer to stay behind. Later I will realise that having to travel to a European country without your baby and feckless husband, while having to manage all the heavy luggage and without a syllable of the language is not fun, so eventually stop congratulating myself on my selflessness. At the ticket desk, another lady sends my wife and eldest to the gate immediately to catch their flight. The youngest and I will fly later that day. Getting a new passport will be simplicity itself. We are delighted to pay for two new tickets. Tearful goodbyes made, lips wobbled, we go our separate ways.

We have to get a form signed by a Garda. The airport station is closed. That’s fine. We’ll get a bus into town and do it there. The passport office is on Molesworth Street anyway. This makes sense. I text my wife that I have sorted everything. I am amazing.

7.15am. At the police station, a Garda tells me the airport police station is never closed. Her look communicates my lack of credibility. I rethink my pink jumper and silly hat. Both my wife and I must sign the form. She is baffled that I didn’t know this. I try my best pathetic look – not difficult – but to no avail. Kidnapping risks, etc. Later I realise she let a man and small child who were urgently trying to leave the country walk out of a police station without having any idea who we were and where we were going. This amuses me, or would, were the world not ending.

8.00am. I go home. I call our local police station. A nice Garda says that perhaps with an affidavit from a solicitor who knows us, he could sign the form. But we have to check if this will be acceptable to the passport office. This holiday is great, I think.

9.30am. Solicitor and passport people confer. I think this is a twisted plan set up by the world to make sure that I never forget to renew anything else again, ever. It won’t work.

A solution: If my wife goes to the local consulate and her consent is witnessed and faxed to the passport office, then the friendly people at the passport office will be happy and our passport will be rushed in the four hours before our plane takes off. Cue frantic telephone calls to my wife who has just landed, blissfully unaware of what’s been happening. Fortunately we have a friend who speaks the language, and magically it all comes together.

12.00pm. I buy my younger son a CD player. He says I’m a silly old goose. I concur.

4.00pm. Somehow we make it and are several thousand feet in the air before I remember I’m afraid of flying. I look around the clouds for more silver linings and thank every star for nice people in positions of authority. Best of all, I discover that while we’ve been away it’s been raining all the time.

Eoin Cunningham

August 2008

This was the penultimate column. I have no comment to make on this, I just wanted an excuse to use that word.

August 2008

There are moments in everyone’s life when you realise that you aren’t a child anymore. Obviously, there are lots of giveaways, like when you’re issued an over-60’s bus pass, or when you’re tried as an adult, but the one I’m thinking of is to do with shopping. When I was a kid, and I saw a sale, it meant that I could buy things for cheap. Now, I see sales everywhere and I’m thinking only one thing: ‘ohgodohgodohgodrecessionrecessionrecessionhelphelphelp’. This is not a position that has a great deal of support in the rest of the house. Apparently toys are much cheaper now, and my diminutive financial advisers think that I should invest heavily in fully poseable action figures and Lego. Or some sort of console. They have visitation privileges to a Wii in their grandparents’ house, and applications have been issued for full custody. However, I think that one full-sized couch potato is more than any family needs, so there won’t be any surprises under the tree this Christmas.

So this, in a nutshell, is the latest excuse for not dressing as a grown-up. Apparently, my personal style has erred towards what might charitably be described as ‘studenty’ for some time now, a designation that many actual students would probably experience a coughing fit over. It has been put to me that it might be time to set aside childish things, or at least all my grubby trainers and faded t-shirts in favour of well-tailored trousers, crisp shirts and shoes that I might even polish more than once in my lifetime. The suggestion (Inference? Implication? Threat?) being that many things in my life and relationships might be improved by my not looking like I’ve just finished a shift in Tower Records. I think this is unfair. I could never get a job in that shop.

By doing a reasonable impression of someone who is actually concerned about money and hiding all the coffee shop receipts, I’m able to delude myself and others (okay, just myself) that the buying of adult clothes is not merely indulgent, but fiscally speaking, dangerous, in these choppy economic waters. I find, incidentally, that nautical metaphors and overwrought language is really the only way to go when you’re talking about money and don’t know your arse from your elbow. Another example: ‘ But sweetheart, there’s a tidal wave of credit available from Ireland’s estimable banking industry. I say we haul anchor and sail the good ship Cunningham to the nearest widescreen TV outlet.’

I should stress that the wearing of armbands, swimsuits and naval hats during these conversations is not recommended. One can be too Method.

So, an impasse. I didn’t want to actually go out and buy anything remotely grown-up, and even my three-year old was in two minds about being seen with me. I’m sure everyone who’s still awake can guess what compromise we came to.

No, I wasn’t kicked out of the house.

One day last week I came home to find a bag filled with new clothes, all bought in these panic sales that are dotting the city as retail companies everywhere pretend that they always have half-price sales in the middle of July. All the clothes were ‘adult’ (in the ironed sense, not the PVC one) and fitted well. My first thought was: ‘But I buy my own clothes. I’m not a child. I feel emasculated.’ Then I thought: ‘I didn’t even have to go shopping. This is what people mean when they talk about living the dream.’ Finally, I’m a man, I thought. I wonder, if I get really bad at doing my job, will someone else do it for me too?

Eoin Cunningham.

July 2008

This represents another salvo in my continuing battle to embarrass myself enough so that I finally get into shape.

July 2008

This morning I did something to my back. By ‘something’, I mean that it hurts and by ‘did’ I mean that no one in my house has any sympathy. Many years ago, when I still laboured under the delusion that fitness (translation: looking good with my top off) was a goal that I could achieve, I walked into Argos and bought weights (the purchase being step 1 in my relentlessly upward trajectory towards being ripped, cut, pumped and indeed, corrugated if possible). It was quite some time ago, so I can’t be absolutely certain, but I’m fairly certain that I may have used them at least once, maybe even twice, before they were hidden away in my own personal Pit of Shameful Diversions, otherwise known as the back of the wardrobe. Incidentally, I plan someday to write a retelling of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, only this time a group of offensively prissy children will find themselves in a magical world populated with rusty gym equipment, rollerblades and people in Xworx jeans.

But the thing about products promising some form of personal improvement that I have bought is this: they tend to hang around, like that guy at parties who everyone else thinks is someone else’s friend (until, after he’s drunk all the beer and destroyed the living room, you remember that he’s your friend). The weights, a guitar, innumerable books that I’m embarrassed to let people see I have not just bought, but read and reread, clothes that represent not just a different time but a whole other dimension; each of these and many more embarrassments greet me every day as I attempt to dress myself. The weights in particular hang around, as if to say: ‘Look at how unmotivated, shiftless and plain lazy you are, You can’t even lift me up off the ground. Loser’. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I’m already married with children and they are really all anyone needs to feel old and out of touch,

I thought I’d made my peace with self-improvement, then I entered the completely arbitrary milestone of my thirties a few months back. Suddenly I found myself reading the covers of magazines with titles like ‘Men’s Health’. I discovered that no longer could I pretend that I came from the same species as these monochrome adonises, even when squinting from behind frosted glass. I appealed to those who knew me best for sympathy in my hour of need: ‘You’ve got a fat belly, Daddy.’ The weights came out that evening.

The main problem, I have found, with working out, is that I have no idea how to do it. I’m a lot like a panda trying to read the newspaper when it comes to bodybuilding. Much of my understanding of the process has been gleaned from watching movies like Spider-Man. So it should come as no surprise that when I discovered this was a long and tedious process, my enthusiasm dipped down until it rated somewhere below banging my head against a door. If I had accepted my limitations this would be a very different column. Instead, I chose to hide them under a pile of newspapers for a month, then in a rush of energy brought on by yesterday’s hangover I chose to streamline my routine by getting rid of extraneous things, like stretching,

‘Shouldn’t you be warming up first?’ asked my wife. As a sportsman, I instinctively knew I was the best judge of what was good for me, so I ignored her. Later on, when I was complaining about the pain, she chose not to rub it in, which I think was more thoughtful than the three year old who demanded piggybacks. If I’ve learnt anything this month, then, it is that self-improvement is a reckless folly, which is exactly what I shall tell my children when they come to visit me in the hospital.

Eoin Cunningham.

June 2008

Learning to drive has been a millstone around my neck for about, ooh, a year or so. In June, I failed my test on my first try. It was all I hoped for. Eventually I passed in October.


June 2008

We own a car and have done so for some years. Like many men, I am inordinately fascinated with automobiles – so much so that it has taken a good six or seven years of car ownership for me to go and get driving lessons. As you might imagine, this hasn’t bothered my wife at all. She can often be found listing all the things she uses the car for: shopping, children; ferrying feckless husbands around; traveling to work. I could go on, as I have been furnished with quite the list. But all golden ages must end, and in an attempt to make sure that the marital one doesn’t (and let’s face it: who wants to spend their Saturday afternoons asleep under a newspaper when they could be navigating hill starts in the driving rain while a line of cars enthusiastically beep their support? Heaven) I have embarked upon a journey from someone who can’t drive at all but thinks he’d probably be great, to someone who can’t drive very well but may, horrifyingly, eventually get a licence.

Certainly, there have been many upsides to not being able to drive, and not just the ability to read a book on the motorway. I like to congratulate myself for allowing my children an alternate perspective on gender roles. Whether or not they agree is a matter for the courts. My view has always been that driving is an occupation that requires concentration, and as I have allotted all my given share to brewing coffee, drinking it and wondering where I’ll get some more, I have taken a fairly dim view of the prospect of cutting into that time simply in order to do something that is effectively another way for people to ask me to do things for them. When you have a car and can drive it, suddenly people can ask you things like: ‘could you pick this up for me?’, ‘can we go to the zoo’, ‘you be the designated driver’, not to mention ‘drive me to Achill.’ I fail to see how this works out for me personally. I think my skill set is more suited to being the asker than the askee (if I could just murder the English language for a moment).

But because I’m not entirely insane, I haven’t yet raised this argument with my wife, preferring a form of passive (some say inactive) action that includes, but is not limited to: not getting around to getting ‘L’ plates and finding the renewal of ones Provisional an almost Herculean task. Now, you may ask: why has this man spent several hundred words talking about all this? Surely it would be better to face life head on, from the driving seat, etc, etc. Well, given that if you’d wanted to read a stirring tale of how one man said ‘yes’ to adversity and believed in himself and all the rest, you’d already be in your car, driving to the bookshop to pick up my latest bestseller: ‘Driving To Success: How The Internal Combustion Engine Can Save Your Marriage’ – apart from that, it has occupied a good half hour when I haven’t wondered exactly where in the fearsomely high stack of unfiled bills and half-read books is my Provisional licence renewal form. And now it’s time for coffee again. Join me next month as I discuss the ins and outs of divorce courts and why my children need a father figure.

Eoin Cunningham.

May 2008

Well, this column cheered up a relative of mine who was going through a very difficult time, so I'm pleased with it. Never underestimate the value of being a clown.

(My parents are so proud)

May 2008

I bow to no man in my thirst for useless knowledge. What others refer to as idling, or even being lazy, I understand as valuable time well spent. How much less would my life be if I didn’t know important things, such as that 93% of Americans eat pizza once a month, or that Barack Obama’s middle name is Hussein (no relation, folks!), or even which Baldwin brother is a born again Christian (bringing undoubted new pathos to The Usual Suspects). And yet, somehow, it’s not enough. Blogs were designed for people like me. All those slightly deranged sorts who in the days of yore would have had the good sense to hide in a shed amid mountains of scrawled notes and old biscuit tins, can now, (indeed, have been for some time) ramble endlessly into the yawning black hole of public access that is WordPress/Blogger/Movable Type/Typepad/etc/etc/etc.

It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s not all good news. I’m here to tell you that a working knowledge of obscure television references and fashion trends ’97-’07 (I gave up the moment ‘neon’ and ‘abstract geometrical pattern’ met ‘hoodie’) is the Occam’s Razor that cuts both ways. It’s certainly been little help with parenting, although if either of my little darlings suddenly need to create an authentic costume for a ‘90’s themed costume party or are stuck navigating a crossword based entirely around a Star Wars theme, then daddy is going to prove very useful indeed, which will be a blessing as by that stage they’ll probably have seen through every other aspect of what I like to think of as a freestyle approach to parenting.

But as I grow older, I’ve become concerned that my thirst for irrelevant knowledge may in fact be pushing useful information, like how to drive a car, tie shoelaces, manage a budget or open doors, out of my brain. It’s possible that knowing all Alfred Hitchcock’s hidden cameos in his films may have edged out more practical things, like how to respond to the question: ‘How flexible can you be regarding working hours?’ as I was asked by a recruiter for a well-known search engine that isn’t Yahoo!

The answer should of course be: ‘As flexible as a gymnast made out of elastic, steroids and hope’, not: ‘Um, well… I finish at five, right?’ Goodbye glittering web career… But then it strikes me that perhaps my role in life is to act as a walking, talking cautionary tale for my children and their friends, of the dangers of too much time spent doing absolutely nothing of consequence. Doubtless they’ll all go off and do complicated jobs that require concentration and focus, then late at night they’ll sit down next to their children and tell them the dark tale of old Grandpa Cunningham, who could name all the actors who played Batman, but who eventually starved to death because he forgot how to open a fridge door.

I tell my wife and children that this is why it’s a good thing that I, like Bill Watterson’s Calvin, am a mine of useless information. They give me looks that I cheerfully choose to interpret as ‘Crazy old Dad, he’s so witty’. I think about my future career as a tinkerer on Wikipedia, wearing three pairs of socks on my hands and living in a shed in the back garden while my wife frantically grows hedges around me to hide the shame of it all. Life is good, I think. Later, I will wonder how exactly this whole shoelace thing works.

Eoin Cunningham

April 2008

I'd met a couple of old friends who live in London now. What I gathered from my 3 hours sitting in a pub in a particularly groovy area of the city (Borough Market - it's like Temple Bar if it was any good) was that their lives were amazing and my life was incredibly tedious. From such things columns are made.

April 2008

Several years ago, I called myself an actor, which is a lot like calling a television a fridge, but it kept me happy. I like to refer that period as my ‘lost years’, or, ‘when I was completely insane’, or even ‘that time I claim never happened in job interviews, claiming instead that I had been kidnapped by an international wig-making gang, on account of my lustrous auburn locks’. My wife prefers to refer to it with dark looks, to which I tend to respond with: ‘At least I’m not one of those emotionally needy types anymore, consumed by my own ego.’ Usually, that’s enough to cause a coughing fit, which I call a victory.

Ultimately, I stopped doing it, mainly (I tell people) because I was ready to move on and do other things, like pay mortgages and eat. Other friends of mine continue to travel that road, with wildly varying degrees of success, and I met two of them on my thirtieth birthday. If there is an important life lesson that I as a columnist can impart to you, person stuck in a waiting room, it’s this: never talk to people who are successful at something you stopped doing. Especially not when you’ve been drinking. Definitely not when you are turning thirty. After four hours of beer and constant laughter, I was convinced that a career in film or stand-up comedy lay in my future. My wife is no stranger to such sudden road to Damascus moments in my life, and so I thought I should word my revelation carefully.

‘I think I want to be an actor again,’ I said. ‘Or a comedian.’
What followed was the silence that only someone who has heard me announce my impending stand-up career after every gig I’ve ever been to, even my children’s Christmas plays, could understand.
‘Also, I think I want us to move to London.’
‘Got a spare £5 million handy, do you?’

This is all part of the joy of getting older. Another one, I have lately discovered, is home redecoration. Sitting in the debris of IKEA flatpacks, you really get a sense of what sort of a person you are. In my case, you discover that you are the sort of person who will never get a job at IKEA. I was building shelves because the most important thing I have learnt over the past month is that the path to true happiness is paved with Inspector Morse DVD box sets, bottles of whiskey and a sensible filing system. For books: I can’t file anything else. Usually, I think of categorization in much the same way as a monkey thinks about the sub-prime mortgage crisis: it may well lead to a necessary correction in the market, but where are the bananas? So most of the time, things get stacked. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve passed this habit onto my children, who, when asked to tidy their room, adopt the ‘cover any available flat surfaces rapidly and completely’ strategy. They’re quite good at it. I haven’t seen their desk in months. In fact, I may need to ask them for some filing tips.

Meeting old friends is like finding a mirror that only shows you when you were ten years younger. All the small shifts that shuffle you towards where you are now suddenly become a truck jackknifing on a motorway. Inevitably, your friends zoom past in a convertible powered by their success and you sit in your truck wondering what exactly happened and if you should really have taken that left turn several years ago. At least, that’s what you do if you choose to ignore the now and live instead in the ‘what if?’ Socrates said that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. The comedian Demetri Martin suggests we add ‘ – man’ to the end of it. I humbly suggest a variant: ‘the examined life, peered at too closely, is not worth living either. Man.’

March 2008

Apparently I left my twenties during March 2008. You'll probably be able to tell from the world-weary cynicism emanating from every line of this column. Let me tell you something. Never have a thirtieth birthday party. You won't feel good about yourself.

March 2008

I took the week off to get some work done. Not the kind that costs several grand and would make my breasts pert and prone to exploding on airplanes – the other kind, where you accomplish things, like shelving. Throughout my life, I’ve always had the urge to ‘get some work done’. I think it’s safe to say that not a huge amount of shelves got put up, nor novels written, nor even rewarding life experiences that I will look back on as an old, old man and think: ‘that was time well spent’. Unless by then, eating a bag of sweets while watching a DVD and wondering how hard it would be to learn the guitar is a valid use of time. I’m sure it will be, based on my probable level of senility at that point. It’s true that, maybe five days in, I left the house, but that was only because we’d run out of milk and I was curious to see if the people outside were really as small as they looked from my window (they weren’t apparently – thanks a lot, rules of perspective).

Eventually responsibility caught up with me, when I discovered children do this thing called a ‘play-date’, a ritual where very short people present their most precious possessions to each other to gain respect and admiration. ‘Look at this thing I have! It’s a Killing Thing!’ - (my children have been brought up with care and an wary eye to posterity). Often, this works, which I found very interesting. If or when my wife divorces me, I plan to start bringing authentically dog-eared copies of Ulysses and a collection of beermats to speed-dating events. In the meantime, I’ve started carrying around old comic books and and mix tapes in case I need to impress anyone – friends, relations, employers. ‘This is DJ Sharpshooter. It’s ‘jungle’. Isn’t it awesome? Can I have a raise?’ Or: ‘I’m sorry about your hip replacement. Do you want to borrow my copy of Secret Wars 1? It’s got all the superheroes in the same book! Wow, huh?’

I can’t help but think that if we could take more hints from children, all our lives would be a lot simpler. Certainly, my interaction with the world and everyone in it is greatly informed by my inner child. I mentioned to my wife that I thought our neighbours hated us. I was fairly sure there was some dark and mysterious reason, I suggested. She said, actually, she gets along very well with all of them. Well, they’re weird around me, I said, feeling confident that no rebuttal could be forthcoming. ‘But that’s because you never actually talk to anyone’, she said, ‘you make a vague “hmmph” sound, look wildly around and then run away. That’s your problem with everyone. I hope you’re not going to carry on like that at your birthday’. I thought that was a little unfair, but given that it was an analysis based wholly in truth, I thought I’d let it go. The problem with talking to people, I didn’t say, is that some people enjoy it, while others view it as a horrific freefall into a land marked ‘Uncomfortable Silence’. I have landed there many times. I think, once you get to a certain age, if you’ve gotten away with not developing small talk, you don’t have to. The way I look at it, if I could do it, my employment prospects would only expand to include PR. So I’m not too worried.

Oh yes. I’m turning thirty this month. It’s not every year that happens, said someone with not a terribly tight grip on the concept of time. Expect every embarrassing aspect of that to be crowbarred into next month’s column, unless I tell you about the time I read Hot Press. Ho ho.

Eoin Cunningham

February 2008

I don't know what it is, but I have an involuntary dislike for people who've had moderate success in Dublin bands. It's probably got something to do with my lack of rhythm. But given that many of my friends and acquaintances have been or are in bands of varying degrees of success, I'm walking a very fine line. Some might say I've fallen off it and that's why nobody calls me anymore, but I prefer to blame the phone company for cutting me off. Anyway, so here's a column.

February 2008

Things never to say to people who ask you what you think of a band that you vaguely remember: ‘Them? God they’re awful.’ Socially astute people will probably note a fixed, somewhat glassy smile and think: ‘must dial this back before I say something embarrassing.’ On the other hand, if you’re me, you could completely miss this subtle hint, and the horrified looks of your other friends and continue: ‘Wow, they were really one of the worst bands I’ve ever had the misfortune to hear. I was so glad to hear that their career imploded. Plus, they were all incredible tossers.’ In fact, you could, and do, go on at length about the various human failings of people you never met and barely remember, perhaps alluding to how they resembled human beings assembled by moles with only Section 2 (‘Knees’) of the How To Build A Human manual, in Danish.

You might then explain that their music was amazing, if you had always been looking for an aural equivalent of vivisection, before going into a frequently libellous speculation on their future careers, in which ‘poor man’s rent boy’ figured highly. You’d probably start laughing at your own hilarity right about then, happily ignorant of the terrible silent void at the other side of the dinner table. ‘Why do you ask?’ you say. The response: ‘She’s going out with him.’

Apparently, this musician is just so amazing, has great teeth and is very talented (the inference being, you suspect, that you haven’t a speck of the abilities, looks, charisma or intelligence of one of this guy’s eyelashes). Contrary to your privately nurtured hopes that they were eking out a living as a duck impersonator in some Dickensian garret, you find that they are in fact making lots of money and live in the sort of place that the likes of Image magazine has kittens over, while still ‘fulfilling their creative urges’ in some dreadfully meaningful way. Of course, you respond to this revelation in a careful and amazingly discreet way: ‘Oh. He sounds great. Has anyone seen Ghostbusters? Bill Murray does this really funny walk. Look, I’ll show you.’ You can’t buy class like mine.

This sort of thing happens to me a lot. In the same way that many people catalogue the course of their relationships by the no doubt many and varied romantic gestures made by their Brad or Angelina, my wife can measure our time together by the amount of houses that are now barred to us, or number of dinners when I have spoken loudly and inappropriately about fellow diners, always within earshot. Obviously, I like to think of my social faux-pas as the cheeky yet adorable banter of a lovable scamp, whereas everyone else prefers to class it differently. But I’m not interested in labels. The important thing to remember that there is no massive foot in mouth moment that cannot be ignored, if you put in the right level of effort. I recommend being short-sighted, then making a big deal of removing your glasses about five minutes before you know you’re going to become crass and disrespectful of other people’s life choices. This doesn’t mean that anyone will be less offended, but it allows you to pretend that you don’t realise there’s anybody else in the room, a situation frequently achieved by the committed loudmouth.

I still think that band was rubbish.

(No, I'm still not saying what band it was. Buy me a pint or something).

January 2008

Ranting about creatives here. I have a hard time squaring the idea that there are people who describe themselves as 'Creatives' in their job description. It's fairly short-sighted, given that if I'm going to make any money in the world of freelance journalism I'll have to work in advertising to some extent (sorry, Mr. Hicks). But if I didn't put this in there would be a gaping hole where January 2008's column should be and that wouldn't do at all.

January 2008

I can think of absolutely nothing to write for the column this month – which should be a subtle indication of the treats in store for the reader. At this (eleventh) hour, several ideas that seemed funny in that happy, innocent time called Before Deadline now crawl wretchedly around the dusty corners of my computer, taunting me. In common with about 96% of Ireland’s columnists, I was about to write about how annoying social networks like Facebook are. I had lots of clever ideas that had been thought up by other, cleverer people – mainly to push the idea of a ‘I’m sorry, I’m going through a tunnel’ function to deal with friend requests that you don’t want to grant but feel obligated for some reason to accept. Then, of course, I realised all originality had leaked from my life and I may as well give up and try to get a new job, maybe as Barry from the Cilit Bang adverts, who I think may be some advanced Japanese robot designed to clean toilets through the use of an irritatingly loud monotone.

I then remembered a conversation from some months ago, with a delightful and blameless lady whose only mistake was introducing me to the career of ‘Creative’. It’s almost too easy to take the proverbial here, because clearly anybody who is able to tie their own shoelaces and operate doors will say, as I did, that these people are dead inside. And perhaps they are. Or possibly, they aren’t, but I think I’m with Hicks on this one. Either way, it wasn’t enough to string out an article, even a fluffy and light one like this, so on I went, scraping barrel after barrel, until I came to that lightning rod of tedium, the ‘new year’ themed box. For the uninitiated, these articles are like a negative of truth for any given year, so if we were going to talk 2007, we might suggest that online social networking is going to crash and burn, and all the hippest areas in town will become a cobweb of multicoloured string as trendsetters take to communicating via tin cans, using carrier pigeons for carbon-friendly transatlantic video conferences. Something like that.

The alternative to the prediction is to parade your new resolutions. Normally, this requires motivation, so it’s an area I’m unfamiliar with. Suffice it to say that I’m inordinately pleased with all my bad habits. They’re like a comfortable armchair, so the idea of reupholstering it doesn’t really grab me. What I can complain about, however, is Christmas shopping. I know that you’re reading this in January and are now cobbling together three pennies and an old button in the hope of feeding yourself until March because you spent all your money on illegally imported iPhones and champagne (or mince pies and novelty ceramics, I don’t know what you do with your money). I understand that you want to forget about the tinsel, the office parties, the uncomfortable silences, the hangovers, but I don’t care. I have to help maintain the good ship Christmas by sourcing Batmen, fairy wands, lego and pink earphones (not all for the same child, happily, otherwise I’d be raising a vigilante hairdresser who moonlights as a civil engineer) and if I have to do it, someone’s going to hear about it. So, first of all, why is it that my children only want toys that don’t exist? There is a conspiracy among toymakers to stop production on anything that I might ever need to buy at the last minute for a small child that doesn’t care about supply-based economics. Ah. I knew I’d find something to rant about if I kept at this long enough. Right. The first thing I hate –.

Eoin Cunningham

December 2007

Looking over this and the columns immediately preceding it, I'm a lot more inclined to political ranting than I thought. I'd stop short of suggesting this is equivalent to the comment pages of a broadsheet, but clearly there's an angry, angry young man sitting at a laptop somewhere. Will anyone give this guy a drink?

December 2007

In the queue at the petrol station this weekend, a romantic liaison was almost embarked upon. I wasn’t involved, but standing in a queue, staring at the back of a difficult customer who was annoying a difficult shop assistant, I needed a distraction.

All the Sunday papers were covered with the latest dispatch from the Dáil. You know the story - politician is horrendously, obviously, inept at their job, and Bertie or someone else comes out with the assurance that the government has full confidence in whichever incarnation of Stan Laurel (or Oliver Hardy) has managed to slip on the political banana peel. Usually, it only takes a paragraph to realise two things: absolutely no governmental heads are going to roll and several aging broadsheet columnists will have their copy written for them for the next year.

This time it seems that Mary Harney managed to lose some cancer diagnoses, which was being painted by our elected friends as being a little like losing the TV remote control (only, with, y’know, consequences). Clearly nothing was going to happen. Business as usual. A man behind me saw this as a seduction opportunity. And who wouldn’t?

‘The papers are full of the hospitals again, hey?’, he intimated to the lady behind me. She responded ‘Mmm?’, that most eloquent of sounds. I took it to mean – ‘please leave me alone and stop talking to me, you’re older than my dad and I just want to pay for my petrol and get out of here’ – but then I have no romance in my soul.
‘Looks like Harney’s in trouble over the cancer. It’s a terrible state’, he said, before clarifying ‘Of course, they’re always out to get the politicians. Would you have voted for her, love?’
I might have said something like: ‘Well, no. But I don’t think my opinion makes any difference to Chairman Ahern.’ But no one, least of all you, gentle reader, is interested in my reactionary politics. In the event, a wiser head than me said: ‘Mmm.’

Casanova seemed to like this, or at least took it as an invitation to continue this line of questioning. ‘Jayz, I feel sorry for her. All these papers don’t give her a chance, know what I mean?’ Then I realised that civilization failed this man in every possible way, and not only because he was clearly the last living PD voter in the land. The poor guy couldn’t even trust the papers anymore and was reduced to looking for love in a service station (or harassing innocent petrol purchasers, which I think is the same thing).

I felt so sorry for him that I almost forgot about Bertie. Poor old Bertie doesn’t have any yachts or houses or any of that continental carryon, so he’s reduced to being the highest paid premier after Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel. Until his €38,000 pay rise, he’s had to scrimp by on only €272,000 a year. How one is supposed to survive on that is beyond me. It’s some small relief to know that when he retires mid term, he’ll get a one-off tax-free payment of €475,000 and then €170,000 until he dies. And the papers won’t leave him alone. I don’t blame my service station Romeo for distrusting the media. If they’d just go after the real problems, like immigrants and bus fare-dodgers, we’d all be happier.

Eoin is pursuing a career in public service, as he would like to retire a millionaire in six months time.

November 2007

I'm a little infatuated by bicycles. I've had one since I was 4 and have gone through pretty much all the fads, from BMX through mountain bikes, past the ironic vintage city bike (what? Just me then) all the way to wannabe hipster fixies. I bought one off ebay almost 3 years ago and have enjoyed riding it ever since, like the great big overgrown child that I am. So, here's a column vaguely related to bicycles and desperately trendy lifestyle choices.

Novenber 2007

Like a lot of people, I enjoy riding a bicycle. Perhaps somewhat unusually, my bicycle has only one brake and if I tried to coast on it, I’d flip and crash. It’s absurdly light and has no gears at all. The type of bicycle I ride is called a fixed-gear bicycle, a fixie, ‘one of those things that couriers ride’ or ‘bloody stupid’. The reasons why I ride it are naturally complex and difficult to describe, but it wouldn’t be unfair to say that looking cool was high on the agenda. Of course, nobody looks cool on a bicycle, unless you’re prepared to forget about things like helmets and brakes, and even then, you’re only fascinating to a small subset of society, one who insurers aren’t falling over themselves to sell policies to.

If, like me, you combine this attempt at being on trend with a silly helmet, a child’s seat and the sinking realisation that you are no different to a fortysomething man wearing sunglasses on his head, you may start to wonder what this headlong rush to not let go of one’s youth will ultimately arrive at. This was on my mind when I recently heard that George Lucas is now making a television series based on the Star Wars mythos (to ascribe it a completely unearned gravitas). It’s hard to overstate what an enormous waste of time and money this is going to be. There is literally no revenue stream that this guy will not pursue, equally, there seems to be no story so threadbare and badly put together that a CGI frog won’t make it worse. I realised then that Star Wars is not some fondly remembered childhood experience that has benefited from a sentimental audience with deep pockets, but actually the Turkey Twizzler of the motion picture industry. Once you make that analogy, the image of Jamie Oliver breaking a group of aging hipsters hearts by breaking down the ingredients of the franchise (‘and here’s the dialogue you’ve been swallowing’) becomes incredibly compelling.

What is it about the recent past that was so fabulous that we need to revisit it endlessly? I remember when rave was a word that people could say without chuckling, a more innocent time, where people wore lime green Global Hypercolour T-shirts (they change colour when you sweat – great!) and carried whistles. We may think in more enlightened times, that this was just a way of saying ‘no thanks, I don’t want human contact’, but we live in a world where even this is coming back. Better by far is to embrace the onset of age by doing something sublime in its ridiculousness. I am (of course!) thinking of Rod Stewart and his recently revealed passion for model trains. Rather than fool around with an auburn rinse like Sir Paul McCartney, or Botox like everyone else, Rod has been spending his time watching toy trains. This shows an ambition and imagination far in advance of anyone I know.

Clearly, the solution is not to offer George Lucas and his disturbingly monolithic merchandising operation any more money, but to find proper, grown-up hobbies, such as birdwatching, trainspotting, stamp collecting, or my personal favourite, needlepoint, which, let’s face it, is a lot more punk rock than my owning what my wife generously refers to as a ‘ridiculous souvenir of a youth you never actually had.’ But enough about my tattoos.

October 2007

Here's me being frighteningly prescient, way back in October 2007. Did I get snapped up by a broadsheet/radio station/TV channel to dispense wisdom from my ivory tower? Did I fuck.

Oh well. The point is - I know I'm clever.

The queues of frantic soon to be ex-customers are trailing out of branches of Northern Rock as I write this, with the British parliament desperately trying to calm everything down amid fears of an imminent recession. By the time you read this, the situation may be much worse, or if we are to remain with our governments interpretation of the affair, just grand, no bother at all, barely a storm in a teacup. Bertie says that all those people who are suggesting that the economy might be in less than the full flush of health ‘are not economists’ and that he wouldn’t trust them ‘with a dime going down the shop’. Rightly so. Do these comedians not realise that our currency is the Euro? Clearly, against the fearful intellectual might of Our Glorious Leader, charlatans like David McWilliams, Alan Greenspan and The Economist are naughty schoolboys secretly reading the Beano inside their economic textbooks, quaking in their shorts. Surely everyone is going to come to their senses now and go back to buying duplexes in Meath?

What’s that? Sub-Prime mortgages? Consolidated loans? Popular in America, you say? Sounds good. Nothing could possibly go wrong there. Oh. It did? Really? Collapse in financial markets, eh? Ah. Well. That could never happen here. We’d never dream of selling sub-prime mortgages to people who have no business with Monopoly money, let alone the real stuff. No, we’d never have people like Start, Springboard, Stepstone, Nua Homeloans or GE Money peddling that sort of financial product. I’m certain that these companies also would be in no way connected to some of the large US financial outfits that are on the sharp end of the subprime disaster on that continent right now, or some of the ones that have been getting a bad press in the UK at the moment. Names like Citicorp or GE Capital would never pop up, surely.

Whew. I’m glad that we don’t need to worry. Even if we did, Our Glorious Government have taken fabulous care of Ireland’s infrastructure in these prosperous years. We really have made hay while the sun shone. What with all the new hospitals and schools in the rapidly expanding commuter belts, the massive improvements to the public transport system and the roads all over the country. Not to mention broadband. I think we should all ignore that World Economic Forum report on how Ireland has a poorly developed and inefficient infrastructure, or all those tedious reports about healthcare and education shortcomings. They’re all just jealous.

Oh well. I’m sure nothing else could go wrong. We have all those lovely US multinationals like Intel, Apple and Google. Excuse me, I didn’t catch that. China?

Yes, I would be in no way worried about the fact that our biggest indigenous industry – the building and property market – is predicated on selling things to each other at ludicrous prices. Nor do I have any worries that all these other countries like China, India or even places like Poland or Romania would ever do something as ridiculous as undercut our invitingly low corporate tax. What’s in it for them? Anyway, it’s not as though they have substantially more people willing and able to do the same jobs for the multinationals that Irish people do now.

Yes, we’re very lucky to in such a rock-solid economy, run by such a clever government. We’ve got no worries at all.

Eoin Cunningham

September 2007

I once got a gig blogging for the Fringe festival (2006, I think). Not only were we not paid, we weren't even given press passes. I was informed that if we wanted to see a show, we'd have to turn up on the day and maybe, perhaps, (but probably not if it were a popular show) we might get to stand at the back.

Before I sound too churlish, let me reiterate that I was being asked to effectively write ad copy for free and (perk of free tickets aside) was not necessarily going to be able to see any of the things I was supposed to advertise.

How and ever. I have form with this festival, which I will no doubt bore you with if you ask me. The upshot is that this column isn't entirely complimentary. But we'll get through it together.

A lot of people will tell you that comparing the Dublin Fringe & Theatre Festivals to their Edinburgh counterparts is like putting Ronnie Corbett into the ring with Mike Tyson (after you’ve blindfolded him and given him a good solid kick in the proverbials). And maybe they’re right. What with over a thousand shows over a whole month, a book festival and a film festival into the bargain, not to mention actual stand-up comics (disrespectable sorts who are in no way culturally important, but who somehow manage to get the punters in where devised agitprop theatre inexplicably fails), Edinburgh has a teeny advantage over good old Dublin.

Stand-up, like street performing, is one of the few non-music based live forms that’s thriving, to the extent that furious broadsheets in the British press wailed that it was squeezing out proper theatre, missing the point on an epic level. If you want to see street theatre, all you have to do is find a street that it’s on. If you like what they’re doing, you can clap, and hopefully give them enough money to eat, so that they can continue juggling broken bottles or doing punk rock Japanese mime (trust me on that last one) or whatever it is that defines them. If you don’t like the show, you can keep walking and the old ‘survival of the fittest’ chestnut will ensure that they either get better at what they’re doing or move into something pensionable like freelance journalism.

With a stand-up comic, you can actually comment on their performance as it happens. You may find that the comic has heard that heckle before, and may give a wry reply, at which point laughter will ensue. Be in no doubt that your fellow audience is laughing at you. But even with the worst of it, there’ll be somebody trying to tell you a story in an entertaining way for up to an hour. Having seen far too many comedians in my time, I’ve seen good, great and ‘please, god, let the floor open up and swallow me’ awful comics, and it’s a real shame that there aren’t any on the official bill of the Dublin Fringe. But that said, it’s worth giving it a go anyway – if only because any other time of the year you have a choice between another Noel Coward play or whatever poitín-soaked bag of Irishisms has been dug up from beneath the Abbey this month.

And that’s really the problem. Theatre needs to be seen in order for it to thrive. If anyone other than bused-in tourists and friends of the actors are going to go along, it’ll be because there’s something worth seeing. There may or may not be anything mind-blowing at the festival this year. But at worst, they do have a tent. A ‘Spiegeltent’. So as a recommendation, this is a little worse than a slap in the face, but remember this: Go and see stuff that looks interesting, but vote with your feet - 2007’s rubbish shows are next years new crop of baristas and Customer Service Professionals, so as Sir Tim Rice so memorably put it, it’s a circle of life.

Eoin Cunningham

August 2007

This is exactly the point where I could read over my columns without cringing and hiding in the cupboard. As ever, it's mostly true.

August 2007

Recently, we’ve been in Chicago with with my wife’s sister and her husband. And their kids. Luckily we have kids of our own, so we won that Top Trumps round. One thing that you footloose and fancy free disco kids will no doubt be incredibly bored of hearing by now is that parents can’t go out like what they used to when they were knee high to a grasshopper, etc, etc. One of the other things about being a parent is that you have an inexhaustible desire to inflict this knowledge on all your friends, so don’t expect to be any less bored anytime soon.

Eventually, our wives tired of our sparkling conversation and decided, being reasonable adults, it was time to go to bed. Equally, my brother in law and I decided that it was the perfect excuse to go to the pub, us having already had far too much to drink. That is how I found myself propping up an Irish bar, drinking something terrible masquerading as beer.

We spy a pool table in the corner. “Let’s play pool”, he says.

A very brief montage of embarrassing pool & snooker moments, starring me flashes before my eyes. I demur. “No, I’m not really any good”, I say, starting with an understatement.

“Don’t worry”, he says. “Neither am I”.

We play. He wins, of course, but not without me making the odd useful shot. The alcohol is making me believe in my ability to play, that I am in fact demonstrating an innate ability with the cue that I have previously been unaware of. I grow increasingly confident. There may even be swagger, although that could be a general wobble. At no point do I think of the old maxim ‘even a stopped clock is right twice a day’.

I am becoming very pleased with myself. I am Paul Newman in The Sting, or Hurricane Higgins, even Steve Davis (my following of snooker having ended a long time ago). I continue to swagger. I find the awful beer to be actually quite nice, invigorating, in fact. I wonder how I never realised that alcohol could bring me such focus. A woman comes up to us to play the next game and do we want to play doubles. My brother in law, clearly impressed by my skills, agrees. I go to the bar for further concentration juice. Hooray, I think, and wish I had a camera so I could personally show everyone who’s ever beat me (all of them) my hidden talent.

The game starts well. My brother in law breaks and shows some surprising skill. I chuckle inwardly, pleased to have inspired him. Inevitably, he misses a ball and it’s their turn. Very quickly, I realise that they might know their way around a pool table. They do that thing where they point to a pocket and then put a ball in it. They smoke while they do this and I begin to wonder if the cigarettes are their radioactive spider. I go and get another pint. Then it’s my turn. It’s a difficult shot, a tricky angle. Real skill and concentration are required. I take a long drink. I nod to my opponents (little do they know), I grin at my brother in law. I take the shot. It’s brilliant. A winner. “Yes!” I say, laughing. Behind me, the couple laugh. Strange, I think. I turn, expecting my due congratulations from my brother in law.

“Dude. That was their ball.”
“Ah.” I finish my drink. After we lose, I decide never to play pool again. Later, I will decide never to drink again.

(Note from January 2009: I did not remember to keep this resolution. I am a fool)

July 2007

This was written in a bit of a rush, so I didn't have as much time to procrastinate. As a result, I think it's a lot better and my column is starting (finally) to feel a little more than a collection of unfocused ramblings.

- I'm not AA Gill yet, though (feel free to take that any which way you choose)

Model Citizen July

After a while of writing columns, you start finding yourself plundering your own life for material. It’s that, or go out and talk to people, and if in doubt, always take the road well signposted. With that in mind, I’ve decided to exploit my children for fun and profit.

Recently, I discovered that sitting down at desks and typing things into computers is not one of the most exciting ways to spend your time, nor does it inspire any great degree of awe. I watched Tom Crean in the Olympia and was forced to face my utter unpreparedness for Arctic exploration, exploding a central bubble of certainty in my life. Not only that, but Tom began to make me fear that not only was I not fulfilling my potential, not just as an intrepid explorer, but as a man. Normally things like that don’t trouble me. The Fight Club model of how to be all you can be reflects only the sort of nebbish who, in the absence of independent thought, views the acquisition of Brad Pitt’s abs as a life strategy, if not also a political movement. But something about the matter-of-factness of Tom Crean made me uneasy, as though sitting almost motionless for hours at a time might not actually be as beneficial to my parenting style as I’d previously thought. I went home, ready to instigate a new parenting style, designed both to inspire my kids and perhaps teach them some useful polar survival tips.

When the hangover faded later the next day, I realised that I needed more help than my dim memories of Mr. Crean could provide, so I did the only sensible thing: I turned to my not-at-all-thumbed copy of Ray Mears’s Essential Bushcraft. Visions of self-sufficient children being led into a glorious, tarpaulin-covered tomorrow by an ultra capable me swirled in my head, briefly dislodging the hangover. I considered the exciting times we would have, catching our own food, building our own boats in which we would paddle down the Grand Canal, thumbing our noses at all the wage slaves, perhaps knitting our own tents of an evening and scouting for bears in Meath. It wasn’t long before I got to pondering some of the wonders of modern civilization, like restaurants. Or houses. Or TV.

I came across a quote the other day by noted vocabularian, Will Self. “Having children is the point at which you have to be who you are. Up until then you can assume another name, change your group of friends or move to another part of town, but once you have children you can’t unwish yourself because that’s to unwish them. ” I knew I had to be who I was, even if the closest that person came to Antarctica was defrosting the freezer. It was a thought that struck me as my eldest and I stood watching a street performer swallow a sword, then juggle burning torches on a three metre unicycle, while blindfolded. There are some things that even I can’t kid myself that I can do. On the other hand, my son, who loudly cheered throughout, told me that he intends to go to circus school, so at least I can be confident that I’ve set him on the right road.

Eoin Cunningham

June 2007

Believe it or not, but this is about when I started to 'find my voice', man.

Model Citizen

I don’t know what to write about this month because my life is very boring. Now, if I were a student or a columnist, I could waffle or throw brickbats at some minority or other. Oh, wait. I am a columnist. What possible hot-button issue could we all be thinking about right now, as we head into an election, wait with bated breath for the next Pirates of the Carribbean movie (will it be rubbish? Will that make any difference this time? As a parent of boys, how many thousands of times will I have to see it before I descend into madness?) and wonder if our summer weather will make it to July this year?

I know. The Eurovision. It’s been going since 1956 and we are still entering. And people say the lottery is a tax for stupid people. This year, we had an entry called ‘They Can’t Stop The Spring’ or ‘Please, Please Slap Us, We Haven’t Got A Clue And Deserve Every Nul Point We Receive With Our Pretentious, Bodhran-Inflicted Guff’. Of course, I haven’t heard the song, but apparently it’s inspired by the Prague Spring of 1968, the sort of thing that makes me want to chew my own arms off in frustration at the sheer pointless anachronism of it all. I think we can all agree that it’s the worst thing since whatever tragic combination of chords, Celtic Mist and misery was launched from the good ship Eire last year.

Every year, we lose against the cream of the bewigged, synth-playing, line-dancing revolution that’s sweeping Eastern Europe. Every year, we search the deepest crevices of our nation for someone daft enough to want to take part in a competition so moronic that even Terry Wogan can act superior about it. At some stage, even we will have to recognise that we would be better recording the sounds of cats fighting in a barrel, getting some ethereal Enya-esque woman to yodel over it and send that instead. The danger, of course, is that we might win with a strategy like that, which nobody actually wants. Just imagine, we’d be giving Flatley a job all over again.

Clearly, there is an audience out there for this sort of day-glo madness. It’s just as obvious that they are all insane or nursing a grudge against people with ears. There can be only one solution: Chris Rock often mentions that there shouldn’t be gun control laws in the US, there should be a tax on bullets. In the same way, everyone who feels compelled to sit in front of the screen while these Olympian talents warble their way through Abba’s back catalogue or pseudo-spiritual trad ditties should be taxed. As with income tax, we could charge extra if people want to vote for their favourite ‘song’. As for the composers and performers of these pop masterpieces, we could reverse old CJ’s artist exemption tax. We could start with U2’s tax bill. Either we get lots of money for things that are actually useful to people, or better still, Irish Eurovision contenders become mysteriously thin on the ground.

There’s literally no downside to this that I can think of.

May 2007

This was my attempt at poking fun at, well, I'm not sure. The environment? Environmentalists? Climate change sceptics?

It's a little unfocused. For what it's worth, I'm a big green softie.

May 2007

May has arrived. Which, given that odds are you are reading this in the month of May, shouldn’t come as a horrific surprise. If it does, you are Pete Doherty, and Kate is looking for you. Assuming that you aren’t in fact an overpaid junkie with some unfathomable stranglehold on the tabloids, it’s probably fair to say that your thoughts, like so many others, are turning to holidays.

There are two ways that you can approach time off in this fabulously advanced age of ours: you can quote long and painfully earnest passages on the damage that air travel is doing to our fragile earth, and cycle to Cavan for your holidays, or you can listen to someone quote all that, nod appreciatively, and board an incredibly cheap flight to somewhere hot and economically depressed (i.e. you can buy a bottle of wine for three buttons and a piece of string). We could argue the point, but I think it’s fair to say that all the advertising is on my side, and either way, it’s hard to have an argument when your opponent is on another continent, marveling at how these clever natives managed to put so much alcohol into a coconut, never mind the aesthetic beauty of the pink umbrella and yellow straws.

But let us not underestimate the importance of our planet and the stranglehold it has over our lives. It may shock you to realise this, but the Earth controls life or death for everyone on the planet. Does anyone else find this statistic shocking? What is worse is the lack of brave journalists willing to take a stand against this ‘Sphere of Evil’. Surely there must be reams of paper devoted to this insidious threat to humankind, this cancer, if you will, on freedom. But no. I have investigated every one of Michael Moore’s books, even going so far as opening some of them, but as yet no sign of a passionate yet witty polemic on the increasingly aggressive planet that seems hellbent on drowning us in floods, baking us at horrendous temperatures or boring us to tears with ‘World Music’.

Clearly there is only one solution (well, there may be two, but the other relies on all the science fiction movies I’ve ever seen being true, and given that half of those involve a grown man in a furry suit or incredibly threatening red lights, the second is probably not a runner): We must strike first. We need to stop looking at airlines as an industry which is irreparably damaging the environment and is only getting worse due to the false perception of cheap flights created by heavy tax breaks and subsidies, and instead recognize them as modern knights on a crusade. It may help if you can imagine an Englishman in chain mail wielding a sword in the cockpit of whatever cheap flight you’ve got to Eastern Europe. On the other hand, it may not. Either way, the important thing is that we all take a stand once and for all against the sort of woolly thinking that leads us to feel guilty about such holidays. Or if people could stop trying to make me feel guilty about it. That would be good.

Eoin Cunningham is going on holiday, and will be doing so in a massively unsustainable and quite possibly legally incriminating way. See if he cares.

April 2007

This was the month of the election that gave us Fianna Fail & the Greens in government. I think it's certainly time for a piece on how the Greens have rendered themselves unelectable for the next three or four elections, while FF will continue to bounce back due to a combination of lethargy on the public's part when it comes to voting (even in this godawful economic climate) and the general vacuum when it comes to ideology & fine political minds on our fair isle. But that's a longer post, so I'll save it for now. Here's the column:

April 2007

It may have escaped your notice that another election is upon us. The dizzying variety on show is confusing and frightening, and you are even now rocking back and forth, asking yourself: ‘Who are these people?’, ‘ Why do they all look the same?’, ‘Is there anything else on TV?’ Fear not, gentle reader, for we’ve exhausted our research budget to discover the real issues underneath the politics. Your correspondent has read three newspapers, the back of a cereal packet, had five coffees and peered into the mysteries of the Dail and (at great cost to his spiritual well-being) has brought back the Truth.

There are several parties contesting this election. Some of them you may have heard of, like Fianna Fáil, a party well known for its keen interest in lowering taxes, raising taxes and photo opportunities at golf tournaments. Everyone loves Fianna Fáil. It may be because they have all the answers. One way or another, we all think they’re just great, so we keep electing them. But who are these other people who are always hanging around the back of the Dáil, hassling Bertie? What do they stand for? Can they do any good card tricks?

Fine Gael – nobody knows who these people are. Some theorise that they’re a group of experimental mime artists following around whichever politician is in front of a camera, for the amusement of bored journalists.

Sinn Féin are the party of whatever is on the front page on any particular day and can be considered the most up to the minute of all parties, supporting as they do the lowering of taxes, an end to the unflattering skinny jeans trend and the safe journey of Desperate Housewives’ Jesse Metcalf through rehab. Gawd bless them.

The Labour Party have just discovered that there’s another political party just across the Irish Sea with the same name as them. Apparently, by lurching to the right, this crowd got elected. There was something else about this ‘New Labour’ having a charismatic leader, but our guys only have half a page of the Guardian and a Daily Telegraph to go on so they’re improvising the rest.

The Greens are a massively relevant party. They really, really care about climate change and have in no way gotten lucky that there’s a sudden popularity for environmental issues among the electorate. Literally thousands of tons of eco-friendly coal is being burned in Green HQ right now to keep the lights on while they think of some other policies.

The Socialist Workers Party are well known circus entertainers who are shortly to embark on a sold-out run in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Catch them while you can.

Finally, the Progressive Democrats. Truly, these guys are the voice of the little people, the downtrodden and the disenfranchised. Your correspondent can only hope that they will have a chance to implement their lefty social initiatives if they get into power. And we all hope they do.

So, as you can see, the candidates to run our country are a varied bunch. A good thing too – it’s hard to imagine how difficult it would be to cast a vote if every party was the same as the next. As it is, lets just have a quick look at the standard rate tax promises from the parties who have announced so far:

Labour – 18%; Progressive Democrats – 18%; Fianna Fáil – 18%; Fine Gael – 18%.

Hurray for democracy. Hurray for choice. Go Election 2007!

Eoin Cunningham

March 2007

Cliches continue with my March column being about St. Patrick. In my defence, I've never liked St. Patrick's day - a legacy of standing in the cold while brass bands from Virginia assault my ears and giant papier mache 'Celts' from Macnas crash about like drunks chasing taxis.

February 2007

Finally that time of year is here again, when people come from far and wide to see majorettes from Texas twirl their batons on rainy St. Stephen’s Green. For many people, myself included, this is the highlight of their patriotic calendar, akin to shouting ‘Brits Out!’ from the stands in Croke Park while clad in Man United strips. There’s nothing I like more than seeing a crowd of tourists stare wide-eyed at the one great showcase for papier-mache manufacturers in modern Ireland. Some people have been heard to say that they’ve had more fun hanging upside down and watching You’re A Star for a fortnight straight, but the less said about John Waters the better. Expect this year to enjoy a ceilí (international visitors: if you find yourselves in a bar with old Guinness ads, in the middle of a pack of other tourists, with a couple of skinny Irishmen in the corner banging on a bin lid and yelling some bizarre Celtic rap, check if you’re in Heuston station listening to a train announcer. If not, welcome to our culture).

Now, many of you may be thinking: that’s unfair. You may be right. Perhaps when St. Patrick hopped across the channel, he thought: “Must rid Ireland of snakes, pagans and create jobs for unemployed actors and TV3 presenters.” We may never know. Or so I thought, until I discovered this document:

Got press-ganged into coming over to this bloody island for Sir Darren’s stag. Didn’t want to go, but Earl Dean put me in a headlock. Sent pigeon to tell work I was sick – let the sheep watch themselves. We landed in a nice place called Temple Bar, which seems to be made entirely of pubs. It’s full of Geordies, so I feel at home. I’m a bit concerned about all the Goths, though.

It all went a bit Squire Peter Tong last night. I think that, on balance, mixing mead and stout was not the greatest idea I’ve ever had. I ought to count my blessings, seeing as how Darren now has only one eyebrow and ‘L’ painted on his breastplate. Bitten by a grass snake last night. God, I hate those things. Someone ought to stamp them out.

Made some new friends: two brothers called O’Neill and O’Brien. They had some natty brown sackcloth on. They asked me if I’d like to take an Examination of Yon Personalitye For Conversion Purposes, and promised me I’d meet their sisters. They’ve got loads, apparently.

Apparently, we’re all immortal spiritual beings, and we’re going to live on after death, with this one god character, his kid and some ghost who’s always hanging around. The brothers told me that I have the potential to reach canonization level. Dunno what that means, but it sounds great. Can’t wait to tell the lads.

Had a major fight with the rest of the group. They told me they were going to sacrifice a goat to Woden to save me (and for dinner). I told them to stuff their pantheon and went off with the brothers. They said we’d do this thing called a Parade, and gave me a shamrock. Dean can keep his sheep: I’m staying here. Got bitten by another bloody snake.’

Suddenly, it all makes sense.

Eoin Cunningham

February 2007

I had a bee in my bonnet about apathy. The posting frequency of this blog might indicate that there were some pots calling kettles black, or stone-chucking from inside glasshouses, etc, etc.

Apologies, all.

Apathy, noun: lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern. ‘I am apathetic about my country because I suspect all footage of my elected representatives to be in fact outtakes from The Office.’ ‘Ryan Tubridy representing my generation in the media induces feelings of apathy in me. Also, nausea.’

Nausea, noun: a feeling of sickness, with an inclination to vomit. Origin: late Middle English, via Latin from Greek nausia, from naus (ship). ‘I became nauseous when I climbed aboard the good ship Bertie.’

A lot of people, usually perched in BMW’s, complain about the young. What those things usually boil down to are: too much freedom, not enough respect, slow bloody service and apathy. We can add charity muggers to the posse of ill-respected youth movements, although let’s all agree that if they were really serious about their nicknames there’d be raids of the IFSC by bands of merry men swathed in Concern T-shirts.

It’s understandable that there’s a barrier between the older and more experienced and the younger and maybe less so. After all, while they’ve been off backpacking around India or experimenting with their creative urges, all the grown-ups have had to watch Questions And Answers and wonder about how to get the semi-d in Dalkey. The thing of course is that the gap between the young and old is now so financially and politically massive that it’s hard to think of a way that it might be reconciled.

Consider the Labour Party. If ever a political movement was crafted to appeal to the unwrinkled of brow and righteous of heart, that was it. How, with that advantage, could it manage to be so dull that a plank with a face painted on would be more appealing? We might analyze the rest in this fashion, but suffice it to say that watching the slow maneuverings of the Dail towards the next election is like being forced to watch an episode of Pop Idol populated entirely by the less interesting siblings of middle managers.

It would be so easy with that background, to become apathetic, to resign and leave the playing field of ideas to preening commentators and moronic debates about the perilous states of rural pubs, (as though it were an issue with any relevance at all to the gaping holes in our country’s infrastructure and economy). It might seem that it is that way too, that to be under 40 in this country is to be blogging on Bebo, getting drunk in the Market Bar and going surfing on the weekends after your weekday job of staring at a computer screen and checking your email finishes for another week. Maybe it is that way, or perhaps we just don’t want to think about actually committing to any definable political belief, having suffered enough of those earnest conversations at dinner parties, being earwigged by, alternately, people made entirely of dreadlocks or who think that fascism just didn’t have the courage of its convictions.

But I suspect people do care, or else there wouldn’t be so many trendy sorts in the organic markets at the weekend, reading newspapers, thinking about the issues, going off to see the world, even chatting with the charity muggers. I’ve been wrong before though. Next month: less ranting, more jokes.

Eoin Cunningham

January 2007 Column

So, here's the next column. I don't know if you can call it an improvement - I was still very much casting about for some sort of direction. It has the air of someone who wants to write something Important, but can't quite do it without coming off as extremely pretentious, so dives for the laughs, or tries to. If I were marking this for an exam I would be handing out a C, I suppose.

January 2007

A lot of things are going to happen this year, so I’ll be brief. In 2007, everyone is going to age uncontrollably and buy more clothes. Shaving will be enormously popular among both sexes, narrowly beaten by eating, while breathing will remain popular among a majority of those who categorise themselves as alive. Now that you know what’s going to happen, I suggest you glue this to your bathroom mirror so you can check it every day as you brush your teeth, face or arms. Thus equipped, you will be prepared for all the future may hurl at you.

The fascination with creating narratives for our future is very seductive. What is of course, truly amazing, is that there are people out there (paid great mountains of cash) whose job is solely to think about whether beards or moustaches are going to be in this April, or if Angelina Jolie walking by a truck is a tacit acknowledgement by the star that she is in fact about to become a delivery driver, shuttling cargo containers full of B-list celebrities to war zones and movie premieres, while Brad stays at home playing Mr. Mom and styling his hair. It goes without saying that these people are journalists and as such have the very highest ethical, and indeed, sartorial standards to uphold. Anyone who knows me will agree.

Obviously, this is a great job, as you never have to think about what’s happening now, since we’re all more interested in what’s going to appear next week. I blame reality television (doesn’t everyone?). In fact, I think it’s time I pitched my own concept: “I’m A Trendspotter, Please Stop Hitting Me’.

But poking fun at fashion journalists, while an entertaining pastime for all the family, is once more eclipsed by what’s actually on TV - Extinct, a new show where celebrities endorse one of eight endangered species. Presumably the winning animal is honoured with a crown sewn from the hides of the failed species. Someone high up in ITV saw Planet Earth and thought: ‘this groundbreaking footage of the few remaining wild areas of our planet is missing something. But what? I know! Anneka Rice!’ It’s after decisions like this that satirists get out the razor blades. When you give over responsibility for the survival of whole species to lifeforms whose main achievement in life is reading an autocue, you may as well start rubbing crystals, making cosmic orders and call it a night.

Being a rationalist is increasingly seen as a strange subculture, much like flying pigeons or watching Tubridy Tonight. Partly, it’s the terminology. If you’re religious you get to be absolute: I’m Catholic, he’s Jewish, that’s Madonna; but the rationalist has to make do with words like agnostic, libertarian, atheist, empiricist, all of which sound like they’ve been made from leftover sparkplugs in an auto parts factory in the Ukraine. Plus, the merchandising is awful. Nobody’s making Darwin action figures. Why not? And when you bang your thumb on a nail, it’s a rare person who cries out ‘Unspecified Monotheistic Entity, Existence of Which I Remain Unconvinced Yet Hopeful!’ And yet, dear reader, we continue, because we must. And if that means we have to work as trendspotters and star in shows called ‘Cult!’ where the official religion of Ireland is decided by a panel including Eddie Hobbs, Gay Byrne and Twink, well, that is the price of freedom.

Eoin Cunningham.

New Idea

So, I'm going to start paying more attention to this blog from today onwards.

The first thing I'm going to do is throw up all my old columns for Totally Dublin. Please read and enjoy, I'll probably write more from time to time. It goes without saying that if you are a newspaper or magazine and you enjoy paying people for writing things down, then I'm your man.

This is the first column I wrote. At the time I was still figuring out what I was going to write about. Totally Dublin is/was kind of a mishmash of different things, some terrific, others the opposite of that, but generally it wasn't a massively serious magazine. Unless you were doing a feature piece, in which case the more serious and politically focused the better. The point I'm trying to make is that dry political commentary was not what I felt they wanted me for, so I decided to write a humorous column. Eventually it became my take on the wry and faintly ridiculous columns that Jon Ronson & Tim Dowling did for the Guardian, but it took a few months before I found myself going that way.

Columns are strange things. Stephen Fry wrote a blessay on his wonderful site about them, which lays it out better than I can, but since this is my site, here we go: To write a column requires a strange combination of ego and neediness (one might reflect that those are the same thing), and while it's gratifying to see your collection of thoughts, peeves and miscellanery in print, it's not quite respectable journalism and it's difficult to escape the feeling that what you are doing is a waste of everyone's time. This makes you crave validation, so if you have a tendency towards one end of the political seesaw, your columns tend in that direction. Whereas I just tried to be funny.

Have to go and make a webpage, but here's Column The First:

November 2006 (I think)

There are three simple formats to successful opinion pieces and columns. The Columnist can either say: ‘I Have Noticed Something Is Terribly Wrong ’ (mobile phones, immigrants, sex, wicker baskets, that kind of thing), or they can talk about the fabulous Reiki session that they had while chatting to an authentic member of some ethnic group or other as they waited for their skinny Frappuchino. Both of these can be measured on the Stokesometer or the Ingle Index, depending on whether we’re talking outrage or pajama-based social commentary. Alternatively, the columnist can take the view that these bloody peasants are never going to learn anything unless I spell it out in plain academic language that any fool with a PhD could understand – the O’Toole Graph of Improbable Wooliness.

Fortunately for the unprepared columnist, there is a fourth way. You can take pot shots at all your competitors and rest happy in the knowledge that you are following in the hallowed footsteps of lazy, smart-arsed students and free mag writers the world over. It should come as no surprise how low this column is aiming. For the sake of completeness, however, I think it’s important to at least attempt to write that sort of thing so that at parties I can pretend to be a male pigtailed single parent with a U2 fixation and a compulsion to appear on Questions & Answers. You never know when you’ll be at one of those parties.

Recently, I found the hot-button issue that unites these disparate areas of the human mind: Bono And The Amazing Disappearing Trousers. Lets take the angles one at a time. First of all, it’s an outrage, a disgrace and indeed a perversion of justice akin to the Salem witch trials that a delicate flower such as multimillionaire businessman and novelty glasses wearer Bono, should have his only pair of trousers stolen. That it is a conspiracy reaching to the highest levels of government is without doubt to all right-on thinking folk, as can be seen by this petty attempt to make such a clearly struggling artist pay tax. That he has not been offered any legal aid is truly the last indignity.

But what of the woolly undercurrent? Isn’t it true that the abducted trousers in question are in fact black and that a Stetson hat was also part of the haul? Clearly we can see a postcolonial reference to the American immigrant experience, so obvious that it barely merits mention, and yet I will talk about it for at least six paragraphs. At some point I will reference a play in the Gate and indeed the entire works of James Joyce.

On the other hand: Isn’t it just amazing how there are all these new people in Dublin these days? I was talking to my best friend the osteopath as we necked mojito’s in my favourite lifestyle bar. The bar staff were absolutely stuffed with simply gorgeous foreigners who all had fabulous stories to tell that I have now forgotten. I got to thinking about how things are just great, except sometimes when they are bad, which is always a downer.

Having exhausted all those possibilities, all future columns will centre on the exciting world of home staging, with special emphasis on plush furnishing.

Eoin Cunningham

About Me

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Welcome to my blog. I'm a freelance writer/journalist/researcher/editor. I write about education and ideas I've had for the Irish Times. I also research, write and edit for writers, publications and websites. Here I put things that tend not to fit anywhere else. Enjoy.

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