Saturday, December 31, 2005

post of the year 2005 : #1

This blog has given me an opportunity to publish the lyrics to several songs I have written over the years – some I am really proud of, some have me wondering “What the HELL was I thinking?”

For my personal choice of post of the year (from this blog alone of course), I would have to go with this song I wrote in a couple of hours back on July 27. Who knows – maybe sometime in 2006 I will have the guts to actually record it, for it has a full music score to go with it.

Don't forget, folks, I started a meme the other day, so if you have a blog you know what you gotta do - at the very least re-publish your favourite post from 2005 for us all to enjoy. You know the rules, a meme is a meme after all!

Have a happy and prosperous New Year, everyone – and thank you for all your continued readership and support. I plan to be back to whatever “normal” is on January 8th.

why can't you see the madness?

What use all your talent
When you have no desire
What use knowing truth
When you were born a liar

What use a Rolex watch
When you won’t find the time
What use a silken ladder
When you won’t try to climb

Maybe one day hell will freeze
And I will see what your mind sees
A forest hidden by all the trees

If you can see the black cats
That cross your path each day
And if you can see injustice
From many miles away
If all your worldly wisdom
Affords you perfect sight
Then why can’t you see the madness in your life?

What use a song about you
When you don’t want to hear
What use my sharing demons
When you can’t see my fear

Maybe one day hell will freeze
And I will see what your mind sees
A forest hidden by all the trees

If you can see the black cats
That cross your path each day
And if you can see injustice
From many miles away
If all your worldly wisdom
Affords you perfect sight
Then why can’t you see the madness in your life?

I love you
Cos I have to
But it’s still love
Why can’t you see?

You hurt me
Cos you had to
But it still hurts
Why can’t you see?

If you can see the black cats
That cross your path each day
And if you can see injustice
From many miles away
If all your worldly wisdom
Affords you perfect sight
Then why can’t you see the badness
Why can’t you see my sadness
And why can’t you see the madness in your life?

© JL Pagano 2005

click here for a full index of my poetry and song lyrics

Friday, December 30, 2005

post of the year 2005 : #2

Sometimes you have your doubts about a post and it ends up being one that attracts a bit of attention.

For #2 in my “post of the year” selection for this blog, I have chosen a letter I wrote around the time of the G8 summit meeting in Edinburgh, which was the focus of both the MakePovertyHistory campaign and the Live8 series of concerts. As much as the cause meant to me, I was pissed off by the actions of the few who took their convictions a little too far.

I did quite a few posts on this subject around this time, but this one was the first I ever did that was actually linked on other people’s blogs, and it was published on July 6. Go me.

dear fools,

Dear fools,

Yes, indeed, you are all fools, and there is no better word to describe you. That is, if you really thought you were either helping the MakePovertyHistory campaign or ending Globalization with your actions this week. I am well aware that many of the perpetrators of the riots had absolutely no interest in the cause and were only using it as an excuse to partake in senseless violence, and I am equally aware there were no doubt a good many baton-happy police officers to blame also, and the English language has another word for all of them; scum.

I prefer, however, to direct this letter at those from the first category as outlined above. What you have done by making these less than ideal headlines is play straight into the hands of those against whom you are protesting. And don’t think being dragged kicking and screaming into a police wagon is going to make you a hero – for I suspect this may be your primary objective, even if you may not realize it.

If you want to really, truly help this cause, there is no need to charge at a cordon of riot police with weapons. Try charging at a cordon of ignorance with reason. Think of all the people you have day to day dealings with who don’t give these concerns a moments thought and pass off the MakePovertyHistory campaign as yet another charity drive or as simply another excuse for Geldof to get on his high horse.

Take a minute to explain to these people the three aims of the project: Fair not Free Trade, More and Better Aid, and Drop The Debt. We need to make these issues ones that the politicians know must be debated for the next election, rather than miniscule changes in tax rates or the price of cigarettes and alcohol or which oil-rich country to tear down and rebuild next. That is all you have to do. That is what can make you a hero, nothing more. That is what can help make poverty history. It’s that simple. And IT CAN BE DONE.

What you have done in Edinburgh the past few days is beyond despicable, and it actually gives me half a mind to don some riot gear and give you all a good bashing myself. Since that would make me a hypocrite however, I would have to resort to more peaceful means to try and change your minds. If “Live8” was designed to influence the leaders of the G8, perhaps a similar concert should be organized for you lot; we could call it “LiveApe”.

When you truly believe in something, and when those beliefs are challenged by hard-line extremists on the other side, you also have to be wary of the militants on your own side, for they can do just as much damage to your cause. The fight for equality is much like a pendulum, which must be allowed to swing both ways before it reaches its resting spot at the centre – those who try hold it back on either side must be shown just how strong it is, and how determined it is to reach its natural destination.

Don’t be fools. Join the cause for what it is, with a view to achieving tangible results.

Yours sincerely,


Thursday, December 29, 2005

post of the year 2005 : #3

I hope you will allow me a spot of blatant narcissism as I spend the last few days of 2005 counting down my three favourite posts from the year on this blog.

Everyone else does it, what with “Sports Review Of The Year” here, and “News Review of the Year” there, so why can’t I do the same?

Besides – I think every blogger should do likewise – no harm in tooting your own horn once and a while if you ask me! So what if nobody agrees with your choices? Maybe this can become a “meme” of sorts – if you have your own blog, consider yourself tagged, and you must now re-publish your favourite posts of the year in reverse order asap.

Since I am one of that curious breed known as a “multi-blogger”, I am also doing a similar thing over on my main blog, “Ah Sure Ya Know Yerself”.

I’m even being lazy and using virtually the same five opening paragraphs for each blog!

At number three in my final reckoning, I have a post from my series of stories I call “Lifeslices”. I chose this one because it took a bit of organizing to get it just right. I published it on April 1st, and I will let you draw your own conclusions from the tale.

over the edge

April always reminds me of a funny thing that happened to me when I was seventeen. Well, when I say funny, I mean it is now when I think of it, but my life could be so much different now were it not for Lady Luck looking after me.

Peter O’Reilly was in my class for all subjects in school, but I never really hung out with him outside the classroom. It just so happened that we were both hanging around after hours for different reasons on this particular day. He had to wait a while before his ride home and I was just staying to get an hour’s study done in the peace and quiet of the Study Hall since there were so many annoying distractions at home.

Rather than get down to his studies, Peter decided to single me out from the few people scattered all over the Study Hall and inform me that he knew a much more secluded place to get study done. Although I didn’t know him all that well I always had him down as a reasonable sort, so I packed my books into my bag and went with him.

It was to the gym that he brought me. There was a balcony overlooking the hall, which was where you operated the basketball scoreboard. I had always wondered how you got in there. Apparently he somehow knew one of the janitors and was able to gain access to the room. Once inside, it seemed like a perfect secluded spot to crack the books.

Like the naïve youngster I was, I followed him into the room. There were two tables and two chairs, but I was surprised when he flung his bag aside and started chatting to me. Still, not wanting to be rude, I played along, and chatted back. He wanted to know all about rugby. He asked me did I play, which I did. To all intents and purposes, I was convinced that he was interested in taking up the sport.

For about half an hour I told Peter all about the game and how it was worth playing, and he showed what seemed to be a genuine curiosity. It was only when he started asking me about the scrums and how they worked that I started to get suspicious as to his intentions. To the uninitiated, a scrum is a play in rugby whereby 8 men from each team get into a kind of gridlock huddle which acts like a tug-of-war in reverse as they try to push each other out of the way to gain possession of the ball for their side.

Once he stood up and walked towards me, I was starting to get very nervous. He claimed to want me to demonstrate exactly how the scrum worked. I was still faced with the dilemma whereby I did not want to appear uncomfortable, so I tentatively played along. He bent down in front of me and asked me to show him how the front row of the scrum got together. I stood up, leaned forward, pressed the top of my head against his shoulder, and let him do the same to me as we each reached forward to grab the other’s arms just like they do in the rugby scrums. All the time I was nervously chattering about nothing, especially when we were down in our clinch. There then followed a brief silence before he turned his face toward mine and kissed me on the cheek.

Outrage was not the word. I could never call myself homophobic. I could never call myself a violent man. But I was just so frustrated that all my worst fears about this situation had been realized that I all I wanted to do was lash out. I had to get this guy away from me as soon as possible. The only thing I could think to do in my anger was surge forward. There was not enough time for me to remember that the rail of the balcony was but a few yards behind him. My forward motion sent him straight against the rail and the momentum sent him flying up over the balcony down towards the deserted gym below.

Lucky was not the word either. Directly below the balcony were three things – a set of weights equipment, a vaulting horse, and a soft, giant mat for tumbling. Peter fell straight down onto the mat. It took me what seemed like an age but was probably only about ten seconds to get the courage to look down and learn his fate. He had already jumped up and was holding his back from the impact of the rail. It only took one look between us to reach an agreement not to speak about this to anyone in the school. I don’t even think I said a single word to the chap since. It’s only when early April comes round that I’m reminded of the whole thing, and how much different the consequences could have been.

Click here for a full list of the "Lifeslice" stories

Friday, December 23, 2005

don't worry be happy

You see there a typical scene from one of Dublin's best known shopping spots, Henry Street, with our newest and best-known monument "The Spire" or "The Pin in the Bin" in the background, and all the predictable seasonal sights in shot - the pretty lights above, the herd of desperate shoppers below.

I'm going to hang up my blogging boots for a while. In the meantime, have a great holiday season everyone.

Monday, December 19, 2005

bitesize bullets


DRINKS : If you will be in Dublin City Centre on Tuesday evening from around 6pm, you are more than welcome to join some bloggers for a few drinks in Kehoe’s pub on South Anne St.

RIP : One of my favourite TV shows lost one of its finest actors last week. John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry in The West Wing, died at 58 of a heart attack, a case of tragic irony as his character survived one in the storyline just over a year ago.

DECORATIONS : I was briefly considering some minimalist festive décor for my blog template until I saw my MakePovertyHistory banner did it for me. Feel free to click it to learn the latest goings on in the campaign.

TUNES : Just before Phil Collins gave up his Genesis roots once and for all and decided that corny smoochy ballads were the only way to make a living, he produced the excellent “Hello I Must Be Going!” which is in my car’s cassette deck for the time being.

BUSHBASHING : Dubya’s latest on possible withdrawal from Iraq:
“We would hand Iraq over to enemies who have pledged to attack us - and the global terrorist movement would be emboldened and more dangerous than ever before.”
The man has a point – they don’t want to make the same mistake twice!!!

EXORCISM : I went to see The Exorcism of Emily Rose last week – seemingly it is “based on a true story”. Being a hardened sceptic, I reckon it’s an extremely loose basis. Had they at least suggested a logical path out of the story I may have given them one thumb up.

TRUST : Sometimes I notice that one of the more unusual examples in my “Googling” segment at the end of these posts leads people to try the phrase out themselves to see if it leads back to here after all. Shame on you guys for not trusting me!!!

CONGRATULATIONS : …albeit belated ones to fellow blogger Benny K over at Sucking On Oranges for his recent nuptials. Also, having multiple blogs myself, I’d like to plug his sister site In The Key of Orange which regularly challenges your musical tastes.

ETIQUETTE : I never mind when someone leaves a comment attacking the content of my posts, provided (a) they at least leave a penname and don’t remain Anonymous, and (b) I reckon the author of a blog should always be allowed the last word on a topic. Any thoughts?

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead people here include …

“what kind of presents do children in ireland get in their stockings?”

“billboards in the sky lyrics”

“example letter looking for my biological father”

“pokemon shag”

“tell us something we don't know”

I hope they all found what they were looking for.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

when you're out you're out

This week’s sports rant was to be about homosexuality in sport.

The highest level of club football in England is the FA Premiership. There are 20 clubs, and each club carries at least 30 professionals on their books. That is roughly 600 grown men. Given our society that is supposedly more open about homosexuality (so much so that even a lifelong heterosexual like myself can do a piece about this on his blog without trepidation), why is it do you think that not one of the 600 is openly gay? Nor are any top-flight players across Europe?

Are there any in top-level American team sports? Or is it just the ice skaters (dancing ones of course, not the hockey-playing ones!!!).

And the biggest paradox of all, why is it so difficult for the public perception to grasp the notion of a gay sports man when it they have no problem to accept a sports woman’s homosexuality?

I found an old article from The Guardian by Peter Tatchell that says it all. It is about the tragic story of Justin Fashanu(see pic). There is no need for me to write any more on this subject, you can read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

For my part, I only remember Justin for a stunning goal he scored for Norwich against (I’m pretty sure it was) Liverpool in the early 80’s. With his back to the goal on the edge of the penalty area, he received a pass along the ground, calmly flicked it up over his head, turned around, and stroked a stunning first time shot into the corner of the net. One of the greatest individual top-level goals of all time.


PETER TATCHELL says it was homophobia that ultimately destroyed the career and life of football star Justin Fashanu.

Justin Fashanu was a trail-blazer. He was Britain's first million pound black footballer, and the first (and only) professional player in Britain to come out as gay.

But trail-blazing cost him plenty of heartache. In 1980, aged 19, he was signed to Nottingham Forest football club for £1 million. The expectations of Justin were huge. There was the pressure to deliver goals and to become a black spokesperson. He found his sudden celebrity-status both a flattery and a great burden.

Back then, in 1980, Justin was not open about his homosexuality. Indeed, he didn't come out until 10 years later. During that decade of closeted double-life, he found it immensely difficult to cope with the strain of hiding his gayness in the macho world of football - not to mention the stress of living a secret gay life while constantly in the media spotlight.

Homophobia was not his only problem. Like many black footballers in those days, Justin suffered racism too. He was subjected to frequent racist taunts by fans from rival teams. They would make monkey noises and gestures, and throw bananas onto the pitch. But it was anti-gay prejudice that ultimately dragged him down.

"A bloody poof!" That's how his manager at Nottingham Forest football club, Brian Clough, described his £1 million star player, Justin Fashanu. Homophobic attitudes like that unsettled Justin. Although he laughed them off, Clough's sneers hurt inside, making it hard for him to concentrate on playing 'the beautiful game'. No wonder his football career nose-dived.

Justin and I met at the London gay night-club Heaven in 1981, soon after he realised he was gay. I had been selected as the Labour candidate for Bermondsey, and he had recently transferred from Norwich to Nottingham Forest. We became good friends for the next ten years.

During that time, Fashanu confided to me about the problems he was having at Nottingham Forest. "Clough doesn't respect or support me", Justin complained more than once. Although Fashanu was not at that stage open about being gay, Clough appears to have long suspected he was a "poof".

In his autobiography, Clough recounts a dressing down he gave Fashanu after hearing rumours that he was going to gay bars. "'Where do you go if you want a loaf of bread?' I asked him. 'A baker's, I suppose'. 'Where do you go if you want a leg of lamb?' 'A butcher's'. 'So why do you keep going to that bloody poofs' club?"'

In that hostile, stressful atmosphere, anyone's performance would suffer. Unsurprisingly, Justin failed to score goals.

The pressure Fashanu was under from Clough made it extra hard to come to terms with his sexuality. When we first became friends, he was only 20 and just starting to realise he was gay. Justin had considerable difficulty in accepting his sexual orientation, but through our talks - often late at night on the phone from his hotel in Nottingham - he began to feel good about his gayness.

Although he had not publicly declared his homosexuality in the early 1980s, I was already partly out. Despite the evident risk of his own exposure by association, Fashanu thought nothing of going out with me to night-clubs, parties, family celebrations and high-profile events where he was the guest of honour. He knew journalists and photographers would be there. It was almost as if he wanted to be outed by the press to end the pretence and pressure of leading a secretive double-life.

All this was happening in the run-up to the Bermondsey by-election in 1983, when I was standing for election to parliament. I, too, was in the media spotlight; with prominent press reports about my advocacy of lesbian and gay human rights. Indeed, I was often tailed by tabloid journalists eager for a scoop on my private life. Justin was, to his great credit, determined that our friendship would not compromised by the threat of newspaper exposure. I was more cautious and protective. So, when we planned a night out together, I resorted to devious means to lose the tabloid reporters that often trailed me. They never did catch us.

Around late 1982, Justin seriously considered coming out. He was fed up living a lie. We talked through the pros and cons many times. It was I who advised him to wait until he (hopefully) sorted out his problems with Brian Clough and got his football career more firmly established.

Sadly, the clash with Clough was not resolved. Their relationship turned from bad to worse. Justin's performance went into a tail-spin. With no long-term gay partner, he was desperate for emotional reassurance. He turned to evangelical Christianity. Although that did give him a period of stability, it didn't last.

Becoming a born-again Christian screwed up his life. With his Church damning homosexuality, he became very confused and unhappy about his sexual feelings. Desperate attempts at relationships with women failed. His longing for the love of men never went away. While publicly proclaiming Christian celibacy, he ended up resorting to furtive gay sex. That made it impossible for him to have a stable gay relationship. Caught between God and gayness, he suffered terrible emotional and psychological turmoil.

The combined homophobia of the football profession and Christian fundamentalism was an unbearable strain, sending Justin's career into free-fall. Things were made worse by a knee injury that would not heal (the pressure he was under may well have compromised his immune system and contributed to the lingering infection). He became erratic and unpredictable, on the pitch and off it.

His major league football career was already over when Fashanu finally came out in 1990. He was distressed by the tragedy of a 17-year-old gay friend who had been thrown out of his family home by homophobic parents, and who subsequently committed suicide. "I felt angry at the waste of his life and guilty because I had not been able to help him", Fashanu wrote in the book Stonewall 25. "I wanted to do something positive to stop such deaths happening again, so I decided to set an example and come out in the papers".

Justin was the first and last professional footballer to be open about his homosexuality. That took courage. Others have not shown similar honesty and bravery. At the time, he and I knew of 12 top footballers who were either gay or bisexual. None have followed Fashanu's example of openness.

Although he later said that he "never once regretted" coming out, the hostile reaction from many in the black community hurt him deeply. He thought that his fellow black people - who know the pain of prejudice and discrimination - would be understanding and supportive. Some were, but many denounced him for bringing "shame" on their race. Still, to this day, Justin is the only prominent black person in Britain to come out as gay.

The manner in which Justin came out in The Sun newspaper was condemned by the black weekly, The Voice, as "an affront to the black community...damaging...pathetic and unforgiveable".

"We heteros", wrote The Voice columnist Tony Sewell, "are sick and tired of tortured queens playing hide and seek around their closets. Homosexuals are the greatest queer-bashers around. No other group of people are so preoccupied with making their own sexuality look dirty".

"Even if Fashanu had chosen to come out in The Voice rather than The Sun, I doubt his reception would have been any more sympathetic", noted Gay Times media columnist, Terry Sanderson. "Rejection by his own community was profoundly damaging to him".

Even worse was to follow. Justin's own brother John publicly denounced him: "My gay brother is an outcast", John told The Voice. Although John later apologised, Justin never fully got over what he saw as betrayal by a brother he loved. Who can blame him for confiding that there were moments during his coming out saga when he felt "incredibly, almost suicidally, lonely".

Fashanu's sometimes bizarre, indefensible behaviour can only be fully understood in the context of a potentially brilliant football career cut short, largely by homophobia.

There can be no denying that he progressively disappointed many people who put their hope and trust in him as a role model. He became trapped in a downward spiral of declining football performance, bad debts, false claims about sexual affairs with leading politicians, unreliability and desertion of long-standing friends.

At the time of his death, Justin had embarked on a new career coaching the US football team, Maryland Mania. The team president, A J Ali, is quoted as saying that Fashanu was "happy here": "He had lots of friends here. He was helping literally thousands of players. He had a tremendous amount to offer the soccer world".

Those hopes were shattered in April 1998 when a warrant was issued for Justin's arrest on charges of sexual assault against a 17 year old youth. Fashanu's suicide note denied the charges, claiming that he was being blackmailed by his accuser.

Whatever the truth about these particular allegations, Justin had - like all of us - his share of failings. Without excusing these mistakes, they were the culmination of a lifetime of rejection. That rejection began when, as a young boy, he was given up by his parents and put in a Barnardo's Children's Home. It was compounded by the racist jibes he suffered on the football pitch, and by the homophobic abuse inflicted on him at Nottingham Forest by his manager Brian Clough. When he turned to the Church for solace, it piled on more rejection, condemning his gay lifestyle and demanding that he renounce his sexuality. Then, when he came out as gay, he was rejected by much of his own black community, including his dearly beloved brother, John. Not one prominent black leader supported Justin when he was being crucified in the black press.

Nevertheless, despite all the rejection he endured, Justin had a remarkable, praiseworthy capacity for forgiveness. Talking of the hurt inflicted on him by others, and acknowledging his own errors of judgement, Fashanu wrote in 1994: "I don't think you ever forget those mistakes, or the mistakes that other people make that wound you, but it is important to forgive".

Justin Fashanu was a bright shining star - not a flawless star - but a star nonetheless. And I am proud to have counted him as my friend.

Friday, December 16, 2005

taking it to the next level

Shaggy VIII > Red Mum

What do you say to people when they ask you what blogging is all about and why you are so involved in it?

“What – is it like a chatroom?”

“No, not at all, it’s, er, kind of like an online diary...”

“A diary? So you let other people read your diary? Ew – I couldn’t do that!”

But even that doesn’t explain it properly. Having a blog is like having a kid or driving a car – it’s very difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t done it.

Another thing that lies in the way of giving a good explanation is that you may be a little reserved in stating the REAL reason you have your own blog.

“Actually, I happen to think I’m a pretty good writer, and blogging gives me the opportunity to prove it.”

I would have a fair hunch that although the above may be a major contributor to most people’s motivation, we don’t tell people that because it would then lead to their checking out our work to see if our arrogance was justified.

BUT – what if your blogging landed you a regular gig with a local newspaper? Methinks you would then be shouting it from the rooftops!

So to both finally acknowledge someone from the links on my Irish blog, and to commemorate her well deserved column, (plus of course displaying a touch of good-natured envy) I would like to award the Eighth Shagadelic Contribution to Blogland Award (aka “The Shaggy”) to Red Mum from her blog of the same name, in particular for her touching tribute post from Father’s Day entitled “The Last Time I Saw You”.

Though the main feature of her posts is her ongoing tussles with her teenage daughter (to whom she refers rather affectionately as “The Young Wan”), Red Mum is not one to dwell on the one topic ad nauseum by any means, and she often uses her keen interest in photography to fashion an entertaining post out of something that may have caught her eye during the day.

I doubt I would find myself alone in congratulating her for taking her blogging to the next level, and although her column may be the holy grail for many of us, I suspect it may not be the end of her literary journey.

Bravo, Red Mum, take a bow.

Previous Winners :

I > Shandi – “
Who says you can’t have the fairytale?"

II > Dol – “
Corporate Whore!

III > Buffalo – “

IV > Mike Todd – “
Et tu, Mike?

V > John - “
You Are Not Alone, I Self Harm Too

VI > Michèle - “
Toyota Pickup vs. The Monte Carlo

VII > Shan - “
Panic Stations

Monday, December 12, 2005

bitesize bullets


PROGRESS : As promised, the five pounds I had regained last week are both gone and forgotten. Now we’re entering the Christmas season, I won’t post about my progress again until the Monday after the 25th. My target is to be the same weight I am now. Wish me luck.

GROUP : The draw was made last Friday for the football World Cup, which will take place next summer in Germany. Since Ireland didn’t qualify, my allegiance is with the USA, though they have a tough task in their group which includes Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic.

SCHOOLDAYS : Thanks to RedMum for leading me to this brilliant site. You just key in your high school and the date you graduated and it searches its vast database for your school photograph. I was amazed by mine, and I was reminded of how I used to drive my teachers bananas!

TUNES : Among the cassettes that are travelling in the car with me this week I have U2’s first two albums, Boy and October, plus one I reckon deserves the title of Most Underrated Synth-Pop Album of the Eighties, Nick Kershaw’s “The Riddle”.

TOONS : Normally I ignore the kids TV shows, but yesterday I found myself glued to a cartoon movie they were watching. Titled “Fairly Odd Parents : Channel Chasers”, it parodies virtually every popular cartoon ever made. It’s a riot - check it out if you can.

CAMERON : Even though he’s only three years older than I am, David Cameron has just been elected leader of the second largest party in the UK, and given their electoral system over there, could very well overtake his new nemesis Tony Blair in double quick time.

BUSHBASHING: Thanks once more to Blondsense for this one…

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the President his daily briefing. He concludes by saying:

"Yesterday 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"Oh my gosh, that's terrible!”, Dubya replied, with a look of concern, adding:

“How many is a Brazillion again?"

KENNY : I’ve seen several blogs out there with customized South Park characters so I decided to find the site and have a go at creating a JL Pagano version. Here it is – whaddya think? Have a go yourself!

ETIKET: You see an inspiring post on another blog, and you want to link to it on yours. Trouble is, they have a key word spelled wrong. What do you do? (a) spell it wrong yourself (b) spell it correctly yourself (c) exhaust your thesaurus (d) forget the whole thing.

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead people here include …

“bob geldof funny irish christmas song”

“willo flood pasty”

“gaelic games sample fundamental”

“brick pile incident bastogne”

“pubs that open at 6am in the morning in sheffield”

“british jolly indeed certainly odd”

I hope they all found what they were looking for.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

winning, losing, and drawing of lots

[The draw for the 2006 World Cup finals was made last Friday. To mark the occassion, this Sunday's sports post is a re-hash from my now defunct blog "Just As Well It's Only A Game", and it's all about the one way no sportsperson wants to lose]

rule xviii article 31 subsection 5 (g) – be afraid, be very afraid

Anyone who remembers the incredible run of Jack Charlton’s brave Irish team in the World Cup in Italy in 1990 can probably tell you exactly where they were for two incidents in particular; Packie Bonner’s save and David O’Leary’s winner in the penalty shoot-out against Romania in Genoa, which combined to seal an historical quarter-final berth for The Boys In Green.

I wonder how many remember the events of four nights earlier;
June 21, 1990. In Palermo, Niall Quinn’s equaliser earned us the point against the Dutch we needed to come out of our extremely difficult first round group which included England, Holland and Egypt. When the full time whistle blew, people all over the country were jumping for joy. I doubt many were aware that there was one formality still to be decided.

The format for the 1990 finals was such that three teams could qualify from some of the four-team groups for the knock-out phase of the tournament. In our group, however, we had finished with absolutely identical records to The Netherlands, and for the purpose of the competition, the organizers needed a method to decide who finished second and who finished third in the group. The distinction was significant, as one team would go on to play Romania and the other had to face the mighty Germans.

The beaurocrats at FIFA in their infinite wisdom could only come up with one method to separate the teams, the “drawing of lots”. As we all know, the luck of the Irish meant we avoided facing the team that was to go on to win the Cup. Still, the party would have continued well into the night regardless of how the draw turned out, for just being through to the second round was cause for celebration in itself.

Next summer, the finals will be, ironically, in Germany. Qualifying from a first-round group as a third-placed team is long gone, and in the past 15 years, there have been many more positive rule changes in football, with the back-pass outlawed, the goalkeeper steps rule changed; even the ambiguous “injury time” issue has been sensibly dealt with.

However, in World Cup 2006, should two or more teams finish absolutely level in the first phase, the drawing of lots remains the final option for determining who advances into the knockout rounds and who goes home.

Let’s be clear on this; this is the World’s biggest single sporting competition, and the preliminary phase comprises teams representing more countries than are in the United Nations. It is distinctly possible that having qualified for the finals, travelled to Germany and played three tough first round games, a team could be sent packing by someone reaching into a pot.

So, what would I do? I would replace the drawing of lots law with one awarding the higher ranking to the team placed higher in the
FIFA World rankings come the start of the World Cup Finals competition. Ok, so it’s not perfect; ok, so it uses a mathematical equation that makes advanced algebra look like adding 2 and 2, but at least the numbers are derived from the teams in question actually playing football, rather than having them both placed in the hands of fate.

Remember, I am recommending the ranking be taken into account only after looking at the old reliable tie breakers such as goal difference, goals scored, and the result between the deadlocked teams.

Of course, the ideal solution would be to have a one-game play-off, but even if they were to provide an extra date for this, what would they do if there were 3 or 4 teams involved?

If you think my concerns are trivial, consider this; cast your mind back to Italia 90, USA 94 or Japan/Korea 2002, and ask yourself how you would feel if Ireland’s participation had been cut short simply by a lottery. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Yet the rule is still there. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Friday, December 09, 2005


This is a song about a man,
Who takes the life of another,
An act that enrages society so much,
They choose to take his life in return.

Whether the song is written
From the point of view of the man,
Or from that of the society which punishes the man,
Is up to you.

Can you feel my fingers
As they're slowly squeezing
How the moment lingers
Though I'm only teasing

How I'd love to see you dead...

If you look up evil
In the dictionary
There's a picture of you
Looking so contrary

How I'd love to see you dead...

My adrenaline
How it is freely flowing
There's no way of stopping
To my hands it going

How I'd love to see you dead...

So can you feel my fingers
As they're slowly squeezing
How the moment lingers
Am I only teasing?

How I'd love to see you dead...


© JL Pagano 1989

click here for a full index of my poetry and song lyrics

Monday, December 05, 2005

bitesize bullets


PROGRESS : On Thursday we had our “Thirst Fursday Christmas Bash” which included a slap up Thai meal so I had two pigouts in the last week which added back five pounds. Still, I’m confident that having no junk yesterday plus a week back to normal should get me down again.

HOLLY : Meet the new member of Sandra’s family – she and her brother got this cute little thing over the weekend to stay with their mother and keep her company. My kids cannot wait to go see her.

PICTURE : I didn’t like that bullet-biting picture that I used last week; luckily, the old one is back. Sometimes I wonder if constantly using pics from other sites will one day get me into trouble.

TUNES : Nowadays my hobby is blogging. As a teenager it was collecting music on cassette. I still have over 600 albums (some of them quite embarrassing!). I plan to start taking them with me in the car and catching up. Among this week’s batch is The Police’s “Ghost In The Machine”.

BUSHBASHING : Hat-tip to the gang over at Blondsense for this oldie-yet-still-a-goodie : The White House has decided not to host a Nativity Scene this year. Although they have plenty of asses for the stable, they simply haven’t been able to find three wise men and a virgin.

FITTING: Football legend George Best’s funeral on Saturday morning was a very moving occasion. The most telling feature of the day was the way the two deeply divided communities in Northern Ireland were able to put aside their differences to pay their respects, as would have been his wish.

LINK : This week’s link shout-out is actually one to my Irish blog, but it was such a good plug I felt it deserved a mention here too. Unfortunately I don’t have much info on the blog’s author to go on, but in case he reads this, thanks anyway.

COMFORT : While sitting in a Dublin pub minding our own business on Saturday night, Sandra and I were suddenly approached by a college kid describing the wonders of drinking Southern Comfort. Twenty minutes later he came back to tell us we had won the promotion’s star prize, a presentation box set.

IRONY : I always laugh when I watch a Scottish Premier League football game. Who in their right minds had the idea to allow optician chain SpecSavers to be sponsors of the referees’ uniforms? Do they not get enough grief as it is?

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead people here include …

“limericks on pampering”

“rabbit basketball offence”

“reebok katrina down jacket”

“shag tag on friday in scotland”

“brainteasers only the priest can leave the island”

“noel gallagher the gap san francisco”

I hope they all found what they were looking for.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

game seven - it's why we watch sports!!!

[For the time being, Sundays will be reserved for sports posts here at A Bit O' Pampering. To show how happy I am to see the NHL back in action after a year of strikes and lock-outs, I've chosen republish this piece I did for a writing course a year ago.]

Zednik gets stuck in against the old enemy

I was browsing through the TV guide before going to bed one evening when something caught my eye.

Live from Boston Garden at midnight, an ice hockey game between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens. Normally my decision to set the VCR would be motivated by the fact that I fork out an extra fifteen euro a month to the cable company for the North American Sports Network (NASN) channel, but this time I didn’t need financial persuasion. This wasn’t just to be any old game of ice hockey. This was entertainment guaranteed. This was a Stanley Cup Playoff Game Seven.

Although Ice Hockey comes a poor fourth in American sports culture behind the traditional favourites of baseball, “gridiron” football and basketball, it is the easiest sport for European fans to comprehend owing to its many similarities to soccer. Yet having seen many games in all codes, I have to say that it is by far the most consistently entertaining. What’s not to like – although there isn’t a lot of scoring, anyone can score at anytime. In baseball, only the batting team can score; football, it is generally the team on “offence” and in basketball there’s scores going in all over the place. It is only the proliferation of foreigners especially from north of the border in Canada that makes the American public at large relatively indifferent to the National Hockey League (NHL).

Despite the fact that there is a Hockey World Cup played between nations, anyone with even a fleeting knowledge of the sport will tell you its premier tournament is the Stanley Cup. The 30 NHL teams play a gruelling 84-game schedule which proceeds to weed them down to the best 16, who then play a knockout format to earn the right to lift the enormous trophy. HOWEVER – to get past a team in the playoffs you must first win four games against them. Not easy! The NHL is structured like most American Sports – there is no League Cup, FA Cup or UEFA Cup. There is only one prize. This prize is the Stanley Cup. Once you are eliminated, your season is over, and it’s time to break out the golf clubs. With this in mind it is surely not difficult for a European sports fan to grasp the tension and excitement of a deciding seventh game when two teams have already skated through 6 hard-hitting battles and are locked at 3 wins each.

As if the stage was not set enough by all of this, the Bruins/Canadiens match-up has a long history of rivalry to add spice to the occasion. When the NHL was first formed in 1927, there were but six teams, of which these were two. Throw in the facts that Montreal is in the fervent French speaking separatist region of Quebec and Boston is arguably the center of American patriotism and you have yourself an enmity which is right up there with any Real Madrid/Barcelona or Rangers/Celtic clash.

So allow me to recap. Two bitter rivals, coming off a long hard season, play a winner-take-all game in a sport where anyone can score at anytime, with the victors living to fight another day and the vanquished hanging up their skates until the following season. Are you getting the excitement? As in any sport it adds to your enjoyment if you throw your weight behind one of the teams. Considering I lived in Boston for a year AND had a couple of bad experiences with some grumpy Quebecois on a visit to Montreal, I guess my good guy/bad guy lines pretty much drew themselves!!! With that I donned my Boston cap the following evening and settled into my comfortable armchair to feast on this surefire sporting banquet.

Although there had been no goals, the first 54 of the 60 minutes of the hockey game were anything but boring. Tempers were high both on the ice and in the crowd, with the tougher players dropping their sticks and punching lumps out of each other at the slightest provocation, and home fans at rink side banging their fists furiously off the surrounding perspex at every Canadien transgression. As each second ticked by the consequences of the opening goal became more and more critical. No spectators were complaining, pinned as they were to the edge of their seats. As I had recorded the game the night before, I even had the luxury of fast forwarding through the numerous ad breaks!

Then out of the blue it came. A Canadien player brought the puck behind the Boston net, took an apprehensive shot, after which it took an awkward rebound off a combination of the goaltender’s skate and the goalpost, leaving it sitting invitingly in front of the goal. It was pounced on by gleeful Montreal forward Richard Zetnik who flicked it into the top corner with comparative ease.

All that was left was a frantic six minutes as the Bruins tried to salvage their season to no avail; the Quebecois goalie Jose Theodore had an inspired night, stopping all 32 shots fired his way, and even when Boston took their own goalie off the ice in the dying seconds to give themselves an extra attacker, it was fruitless as Zetnik helped himself to a second into the empty net with 8 seconds left.

Those remaining few seconds were of course an anti-climax, but by no means did they take from what had been an incredibly intense contest. The Canadiens went on to fight another day with their 2-0 victory (I was to receive some consolation as they were to lose to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay in the next round), while the Bruins players packed their bags and rued the loss of bragging rights to their bitter rivals.

Game Seven is an event rarely matched in any other discipline, and is a phenomenon that fully deserves its place in popular sports culture.

This is why we watch sports.

Friday, December 02, 2005

don't mention the blogs

I went out with the “Thirst Fursday” crowd last night for a few beers, a Thai meal, a few bottles of wine, and a few more beers.

Soon after arriving, B** E****** turns to me and says : “Listen – we are DEFINITELY not going to talk about blogs tonight, ok?”

Ten minutes later, he turns to me and says,

“Now I KNOW we’re not going to talk about blogs, but I just want to say I’m really enjoying reading Mike Todd’s blog!”

A bit later, Conor W told us how much his offspring looked like himself, even though he has only ever see him/her via an ultrasound shot. So B** says,

“Hey, you should write about that on your blog!”

I come to the conclusion that although we were definitely not supposed to talk about blogs, it was clearly ok to talk about blogs.

So I figured this was a good time to ask him the identity of someone who seems to work for a particular firm of solicitors that has been regularly hitting my blog on a certain page lately. Turns out it’s his girlfriend, none other than I*** C***** herself.

Then I figured I should warn him that the page she keeps reading is the one where I talk about my fiancée and the plans for our wedding. This of course leads to much slagging from the lads. B** seems to think it’s a good time to stop talking about blogs again.

Until, of course, a few bottles of wine and a spicy Thai dish later. And a debate about “gobies”, which I worked out were desserts, though I was afraid to ask why.

Suddenly Ken asked the very attractive Thai waitress for something like a “fudge-packer” and everyone laughed. Seemingly she knew what he meant and he was the only one to get a goby.

Soon after the whole battered sausage debate, we remembered the day B** nearly killed Declan on Ian's stag weekend. The supervisor said, "Whatever you do, lads, don't point the rifles straight up in the air." Less than a minute later, what did Declan do? The pellet fired from the gun, hit the corrugated iron roof, and struck B** less than an inch above his eye. Considering he also had a rifle at the time, the man showed some restraint I can tell you.
Then of course B** brought up the blogs again, having quizzed I*** via text message about her sudden interest in weddings. Apparently she pleaded her case quite well. Turns out she just bookmarked that page because it was the first one she saw. Good save.

Then it fell upon us to come up with a ruse whereby I was to make her think I was somehow annoyed that someone had scrutinized my blog so closely. By now, of course, the conversation was all about blogs.

I might add that we were rather tipsy by this stage. So much so, that I can’t remember now what I was supposed to type here to make I*** think I’m annoyed. All I can do instead is tell the story of how we sat in a pub after the restaurant drinking bottles of Heineken trying to work out which lapdancing club we were going to hit next.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I was to be sure and mention Ger again. Done.

Twas a good night, lads. Here’s to the next Thirst Fursday. Maybe then we can talk about blogs.

Monday, November 28, 2005

bitesize bullets


PROGRESS : Every four weeks we leave out a “green bin” to be collected which is full of cardboard and newspapers for recycling. I noticed the latest one was half as full as it normally is. Why is that? No pizza boxes! Two more pounds gone, making it 23 in six weeks.

PICTURE : I had to change my “bitesize” pic because apparently the website from which I got the last one is no longer on the web. I hope the new one isn’t too girly!

BEST : Football/soccer lost one of its greatest ever players last Friday with the death of George Best, who played for Manchester United, Northern Ireland and even Los Angeles in his day. Rather than the traditional minute’s silence at games last weekend, they opted for the fitting tribute of a minute’s applause.

TRAGEDY : Much like football’s most worn out cliché, Best’s life was itself a “game of two halves”. I can only hope the tragic alcoholism that was his eventual undoing can be a lesson to those responsible for the latest batch of superstars like Wayne Rooney in the years to come.

POTTER : Brought my son to “Goblet of Fire” yesterday. I thought everything about the film was impressive except for the continuity. Seemingly it was the longest book of the series, and you can tell as the story moves too quickly for those who haven’t read the book. Still, he loved it.

BUSHBASHING: Why bother using speculative stuff like the Libby and Rove affairs to slag off Bush when he provides you with material himself? My caption for this vintage pic : “Gee whiz, my daddy always told me this job would OPEN doors!!!”

LINK : This week’s link shout-out goes to Rua over at A Little Lipstick.... Glad you liked what you saw here enough to stick me on your blogroll, I’m happy to do likewise.

WONDER : If prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, what did their first customers do for a living in order to be able to pay them? Questions like these keep me up at night you know!!!

MACHA : I usually switch off baseball news once my Oakland Athletics fall out of contention, but I was delighted to hear Ken Macha changed his mind and decided to stay on as coach after pulling us out of an early season slump to achieve 88 wins in 2005.

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead people here include …

“jl fan clubs”*

“got to pee”

“family guy a chicken on every table and a cap in every ass”

“elderly nod off”

“game on matthew I want shag cos that my bag”

I hope they all found what they were looking for.

* = unfortunately that does not refer to me; apparently it’s some American soap star!

Friday, November 25, 2005

those who can't?

Once upon a yesteryear I wanted to be an English teacher.

The trouble with aspiring to certain professions at a young age is that your perceptions are usually too far removed from reality for your choice to be an informed one.

Having said that, when I was in 6th Year [American equivalent = high school senior] my dean was so impressed with the way I organized a pool tournament for my peers in the rec room that he actually took me aside and told me that if I ever wanted somewhere to train as a teacher, I was more than welcome at my alma mater.

This meant nothing to me at the time, but seven years later when I returned from a couple of years’ travelling in the USA with MyX and she was pregnant with our first child, I was relying on this promise for my career prospects, and I set up a meeting with the principal of the day to discuss them.

By the time I walked out of the meeting, I was fully convinced that teaching was the last thing I wanted to do. One reason for this could be that the priest then holding the reins of the school was the very man in whose Religion class I had been, shall we say, a tad over-quizzical in the past [see this essay].

I guess my seemingly atheist leanings would have been a bit too disruptive for his highly respected establishment whose alumni included both Ireland’s answer to George Washington aka Eamonn de Valera and Ireland’s answer to Mother Theresa aka Bob Geldof.

And so my life went in a different direction, albeit a slightly wayward one. I have been meaning for sometime to do an essay in my “Lifeslice” series about some of the teachers I did have as a youngster, so here goes.

Though I will disguise the surnames of the various professors for obvious reasons, I will use their real nicknames so that when googlers find their way here by virtue this sentence which contains the phrase “Blackrock College”, they will hopefully be reminded of similar experiences with the same people. I will write about them as they come to mind, they are in no particular order.

FR “FERGIE” FARLEY [subject = French]

Fergie’s trademark move was ripping off his glasses and saying aggressively to the class when they were being disorderly “Do you want a confrontation?” He always used to pick on me because I hated doing the buttons both at my collar and on my sleeves. Though he never sent me to the principal for it, there were dozens of occasions when the class would be held up as I was ordered to roll down my sleeves and strangle myself with the collar button. On the last day of the school year, one of my classmates had the bright idea for me to have my buttons done properly while the rest of the class went for my usual sloppy look. Though I know he must have noticed, he chose not to say anything the entire period.


Legend has it he got this name when in the midst of reading out text from a religious instruction booklet to a class he suddenly blurted out “Who farted?” in his country [locally known as “culchie”] accent in reaction to a particular odour that had infiltrated the classroom.


The WP refers to Willow Park, the junior feeder school. Archie was a very good French teacher and gave me a good grounding in the language. Unfortunately he will be most remembered not only for the fact that he tended to wear clogs, but also that he had a propensity to flinging them off his foot down an aisle between desks at the wall towards the back of the class to scare the be-jaysis out of boys not paying attention.


Though small enough in stature for you to think he could have been a jockey in younger days, his deep booming English accent would dominate any room and strike terror into any youngster. He had a novel way of asserting his authority on a class – I will never forget my first experience with him as my teacher – less than a minute after closing the door behind him he gave a boy sitting in the front row an almighty slap across the face for not acknowledging his entrance quickly enough by rising from his desk.

MR. “BOGMAN” BYRNE [Science]

Unlike Mr Taylor, discipline wasn’t exactly one of his strong points. He seemed to think the best punishment for boys talking amongst themselves in his class was to separate them by making one of the culprits move his notebook from the central benches in the middle of the classroom to the shelves at the side. One day he punished the boy sitting beside me in this way, yet about ten minutes later, having caught the same boy talking to another guilty party at the shelved area, he ordered him back to the middle – to the other side of where I was sitting. The term “bogman” is akin to the phrase “culchie” I mentioned earlier as it is a less-than-flattering description of someone who hails from outside of Dublin in a more rural setting.


Although my disillusionment with learning the Irish language began under his watch, to blame him would be unfair. The syllabus was just too boring. Samson was named as such because he was huge, not because of his hair or anything. His method of teaching second level Irish was to give us prepared answers to questions he knew would be on the exam papers and making us learn them off by heart – he used to call each passage a “smaointe” [roughly pronounced smweencha] and there was nothing I hated more as a 14-year old. In the end I devised an elaborate system of “cog-notes” or “cheat-sheets” and had them written in tiny writing on various scraps of paper which I smuggled into the final exam in various parts of my clothing. Had I used the same intelligence that devised the intricate scam to apply myself to actual study, I probably would have gotten a better grade, but it wouldn’t have been as fun.


Everyone who has had anything to do with the school [which is known locally as “The Rock”] will know who I mean from this description, as his real name is synonymous with the school even now. He has what can be only described as a “no-nonsense” attitude. He once did something similar to Eddie Taylor in that he grabbed a boy out of his desk and threw him out the door before a class even started, though this time not because the boy was doing anything wrong, he was just annoyed by the sight of him! McGovern’s first task in each class would be to inspect our homework. He would always start at the first desk in the top left hand corner and work his way down each row, putting an enormous check mark across your page after a brief inspection. I thought I was extremely clever sitting down the very end of the last row he inspected in that I had time to scrawl out my effort in the time it took him to traverse the room. I succeeded for most of the time until one day when he got to my desk, picked up my copybook, ripped it in two and threw it in the trash.

MR. “BENJY” CARTER [English]

Although English was always my favourite subject, what made me want to be an English teacher was my assertion that I could definitely do it a whole lot better than this guy. His idea of “covering” Shakespeare for example was to pick three or four students, assign them to different roles from a particular play, and have them blandly read out the text from their book. This was never easy to do, especially when you consider that when it was your turn to read something out, you invariably had someone either prodding you from behind or firing a piece of chewed up paper across the room at your cheek with a pea-shooter/Bic-pen-with-the-ink-bit-removed.

It was in Benjy’s class that my talents as a mimic began to emerge, as I had his voice down to a T. I went on to distract fellow students with an apparently impressive routine where I did my own dialogue from Star Trek which included the voices of Kirk, Spock, Scotty and Chekhov. As a result of my antics Benjy’s catchphrase became “Jeff Pagano – get outta that desk” as he would invariably move me up to the head of the class. One day he added; “You’re not learning anything down there”, to which I boldly replied, “That’s because you’re not teaching anything up there!”, a retort that unbelievably went unpunished. Although my arrogance may have been well founded, I never appreciated at the time that despite my defiance he would always give me good grades, and many was the time he chose to read my assignments out to the class.

Since it is partially thanks to him that I had the confidence to begin writing this blog, I will make Benjy’s tale the last of this selection.

Looking back I suppose I can only admire the work of the teaching profession as a whole. While most get criticism when things go wrong, few get credit for a job well done, as this is a prize no doubt willingly claimed by the parents.

I wonder what vocations would spring to most people’s minds when they think of the word “hero”? No doubt doctors, soldiers, fire-fighters and policemen would all get the nod before teachers. As no doubt many people would have tales of ridicule from their past schooldays similar to mine, this will undoubtedly be a perception that will continue for many years to come. I don’t think I can name one TV show that my kids watch that doesn’t have a dorky teacher as a main character.

Of course, Oscar Wilde’s famous quote doesn’t do the profession a whole lot of good either!

Click here for a full list of the "Lifeslice" stories

Monday, November 21, 2005

bitesize bullets


PROGRESS : Though there was only a drop of two pounds this week, I’d be happy with that for the next while, and then I’d expect it to level off. 21lbs in 5 weeks ain’t too shabby overall. Thanks again to Sandra for keeping me on track.

CONGRATS : …to my friend and regular reader Conor whose wife is expecting their first baby next summer. He chose to inform me by way of a mime that was meant to illustrate a pregnant bump but which I first took to mean big boobies. Shows where my mind is.

POEM : My latest lyrical offering was a lot of fun to do. I re-worked the words of Billy Joel’s classic “We Didn’t Start The Fire” concentrating on Irish history. It’s here if you want to check it out, but you do need to know the subject matter to get it.

SPORTS : In keeping with my “less is more” blogging policy, I have decided to terminate my “Just As Well It’s Only A Game” blog and in future I will vent my sporting spleen on my two main sites, with posting mainly taking place on Sundays.

LINK : I recommend all bloggers use the “Who Links To Me” button you see on the right hand side – it’s a great way of keeping up with whoevers keeping up with you. It’s good to see Dol is back in the Blogsphere – check out both her site and her comic strip.

PISTOL : Irish political blunder of the week had to be our pint-size Minister for Defence Wille O’Dea allowing himself to be photographed aiming an automatic weapon at the camera in a week where gun violence was at the forefront of the news headlines. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

OZ : I know I already said I’d do sports on Sundays, but I’d still like to congratulate the Australian soccer team, aka the “Socceroos”, for qualifying for the World Cup finals in Germany next summer. They will undoubtedly be a welcome colourful addition to the greatest single-sport festival on earth.

RALPH : …Feinnes does a jolly good job portraying a stiff-upper-lip British diplomat in “The Constant Gardner” which I saw last night. It is definitely worth seeing, especially if you like your thrillers with plenty of sex, intrigue and scandal. I like the way the frantic cinematography mirrors the lead character’s confusion.

MILESTONES : Last Friday’s post here was my 300th for this blog, while tomorrow’s over on my Irish site will be my 200th there, which by my reckoning makes this one my 500th over all. I also recently passed the 11,000 hits mark between the two since I discovered StatCounter last May.

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead googlers here include …

“84 words personality”

“hold him down strapon mistresses”

“where to get a free shag”

“heineken dartboard”

“vegetarian logos”

“stories of losing virginity on the wedding night”

"beautiful legs sexy crutches"

I hope they all found what they were looking for.

Friday, November 18, 2005

more like “shame & blame”

White phosphorus being used over Fallujah. Though its illuminatory function cannot be questioned, I don’t get how the lighted area can be guaranteed not to also affect civilians [source -]

When you take into account the fact I am a self-confessed pacifist, you will understand I barely have to open my mouth on the recent “white phosphorus” debate and you would pretty much have an idea where my views would lie.

In fact, before I utter a word I can hear the resonance of terms like “pinko” being flung in my direction. To those who are forming this opinion, I refer you all to my recently posted essay on such terms.

Now, to the issue at hand. I always find Wikipedia to be a great source for the lowdown on things in the news you need catching up on. Here’s how they explain the substances effects on humans.

Effects of exposure to WP weapons

Incandescent particles of WP cast off by a WP weapon's initial explosion can produce extensive, deep (second and third degree), painful burns. These weapons are particularly dangerous to exposed personnel because white phosphorus continues to burn unless deprived of oxygen or until it disappears, in some cases burning right down to the bone. Burns usually are limited to areas of exposed skin because only the larger WP particles can burn through personal clothing.

Exposure and inhalation of smoke

Burning WP produces a hot, dense white smoke composed of particles of phosphorus pentoxide, which are converted by moist air into phosphoric acid.

Most forms of smoke are not hazardous in the kinds of concentrations produced by a battlefield smoke shell. However, exposure to heavy smoke concentrations of any kind for an extended period (particularly if near the source of emission) does have the potential to cause illness or even death.

WP smoke irritates the eyes and nose in moderate concentrations. With intense exposures, a very explosive cough may occur. However, no recorded casualties from the effects of WP smoke alone have occurred in combat operations and to date there are no confirmed deaths resulting from exposure to phosphorus smokes.

As you can see, while actual contact with your skin can be torturous, the effects of inhilation are not so bad. OK, that’s fine.

However, although I’m not a scientist or a military man, I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone can give a cast-iron guarantee that a weapon that contains this substance will only serve it’s purpose as an agent to both illuminate an area and flush out enemy soldiers without affecting civilians. Such a guarantee cannot be made.

And no matter how much you try and convince me it does not count as a “chemical weapon”, the fact that it is a weapon that utilises chemicals and their effects leaves you on very shallow ground.

Let’s face it – the crux behind this argument is the fact that though very few people will publicly endorse the use of such weapons in battle, there are many out there who harbour the opinion, albeit behind closed doors, that such tactics are “necessary in battle”, particularly in the “war on terror”.

I just cannot subscribe to this. Although I would have I lot to say about the irony of coming up with rules and regulations for how to conduct warfare, if the International Community gets together to agree on such legislation, the United States should sign up to it if she really wants to view herself to be any kind of authorative presence on the planet.

As for the use of the flippant term “shake and bake”, I would much rather be called a bleeding heart liberal than be someone who was able to distance themselves from the devastating effects of a weapon by giving it such a name.

For me, it only goes to prove my assertion in the essay I mentioned earlier that “army generals [are] little more than overgrown boys with oversized toys which they are dying to take out of their wrappers and use”.
Finally, while it is good to hear that it was pressure from bloggers that helped bring this story to light [pardon the pun], let us all hope there are no repercussions, particularly with control of the internet currently soon to be in contention.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

aw, how cuuute!!!

Let’s face it – not many people enjoy being patronized, I certainly don’t.

In case you don’t know what being patronized means, it’s when somebody automatically assumes…


Seriously, though – just what is it that gets our dander up when somebody talks down to us? Ok, of course it is an affront to our dignity first and foremost, particularly when the perpetrator is someone we consider to be a peer, but in my opinion it goes much deeper than this.

I reckon our resentment stems from our adolescent years when we are beginning to think less about our immediate desires and more about the world around us; in other words, when we start to form those wretched things we call opinions.

Of course the first culprits we come across are our parents or guardians. Nothing used to bug me more than when I’d embark on a rant only to see my more senior relations’ faces be washed over by that “Aw, look at him, he has a point of view!” expression which means they aren’t taking in a word I am actually saying, no matter how carefully chosen they may have been.

As my elder child approaches her 11th birthday, I am now starting to see the other side of the coin, and I have caught myself doing exactly the same thing with her.

Luckily for me I guess, I have noticed it early, since she’s not quite old enough to notice I go into a semi trance as I marvel over how this person whose poop I was cleaning up not too long ago is now able to put forward a reasonable argument about something she believes in.

I can now understand what my mother sometimes sees even now as I speak to her on any issue. It’s as though I go through a metamorphosis before her very eyes and suddenly I’m a little kid again.

All those stories of the various cute things I did as a wee lad that got dragged out over an over again in polite company have now ceased to be annoying anecdotes and are now vivid depictions of how I used across to adults.

Like the time she arranged to have a professional picture taken of me as a four year old. The photographer plonked me down among a dozen or so building blocks, you know – the ones with the letters on, and told me to smile broadly and hold up two of the blocks. I dutifully complied, and it was only after my mother got the set of prints back that she realised I chose to adorn my Kodak moment with the letters “F” and “U”.

She claims she doesn’t have the picture anymore, but I don’t believe a word of it – she probably figures I’d destroy it, and she’s probably right.

Or the time she brought me to see Santa Claus. There was a new restaurant phenomenon called “fast-food” sweeping the nation at the time, and supposedly out of a desire to make me seem smarter than all the other kids standing in line, she coached me to ask ol’ St Nick for a “McDonalds franchise”. Again, I was a willing participant in her plan.

“Ho-ho-ho! That’s very funny”, said the guy in the red suit. “But surely you mean you want some McDonalds FRENCH FRIES, don’t you?”

Come to think of it, maybe resentment to being patronized starts at an earlier age than I thought, because my reply was,

“No, I said FRANCHISE, you dummy!!!”, after which I seem to recall being grabbed and rushed away from his knee clinging to my complementary small box of Lego for dear life.

Of course at those tender ages, you don’t realise what you’ve done. As you get older, you begin to catch youself, which can sometimes make matters worse.

My grandparents and I moved here to Ireland in late 1977, and the first year was very, very difficult indeed. We were in a strange country, I had to start a new school as “the yank” and all the taunting that went with it, and the winters were umpteen times colder than anything we were used to back in California.

On top of all this was my grandfather’s illness. He had a cancerous tumour on his larynx, which had to be totally removed, naturally leaving him without a voice. Chemo-therapy had proven to be unsuccessful, and he just wanted the operation over and done with once and for all.

My mother made the trip over to be with us when he was about to go under the knife. She brought with her news that her brother had himself been diagnosed with leukaemia and was growing weaker by the day. Despite the fact she was led to believe he had at least another six months left in him, my uncle passed away shortly after she got here.

And so we were left in the unenviable position of having to tell my grandfather right after major life-changing surgery that his son was gone. I don’t remember the tension so much from the time before we went into the ward, but I do recall my mother telling me over and over NOT to say anything about my uncle until the grown-ups had done so.

I guess I assumed they were just going to go straight in and tell him, but they didn’t. Obviously it was very difficult for my mother and my grandmother to deal with the information themselves let alone break it to him just like that.

And so, after a bout of silence, my grandfather turned to me and said in his new whispery tone;

“So, Jeff, do you have any news?”

I wasn’t expecting to be asked a question. Thoughts raced around my head to try and think of something that wasn’t uncle related. Then it came to me that I had gotten a good mark on a math test that very day, something I knew I had told my mother and grandmother about on the way to the hospital. Since I knew it was such a tense time, I felt the desire to look for clearance before giving an answer.

“Can I tell him the news?” I said, looking at my mother.

The instant scowl that appeared on her face brought the misunderstanding home to me all too quickly.

“No – I don’t mean about Uncle Chris dying – I mean my math test!”, was what immediately spilled from my eight-and-a-half-year-old mouth.

We didn’t realise it at the time of course, but that moment was to provide us something to laugh about in the years to come whenever we remember those trying times for the family.

What was intersting for me about remembering that last story is that while writing it, I was more concerned about how my relatives were thinking at the time of the incident than I was about my own thoughts. The reason for that is, we find it very difficult to remember a time when we didn’t know stuff. It is only when we witness someone close to us going through the same thing that we can once again look at life through youthful eyes.

And so I suppose I have to be mindful of my attention span when my children try to express themselves to me in the future, or at least understand the repercussions when I don’t.

Maybe I’m starting to see the benefits of old age – for one thing, I can guarantee that if and when I throw in the towel and concede I’m an “old man” I certainly won’t give a damn about who thinks I’m being patronizing!!!

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