Tuesday, May 31, 2005

oliver twisted



Oliver Stone in LA drugs arrest

Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone has been arrested for drink driving and possession of drugs.


Police said the 58-year-old film-maker was arrested on Friday night at a police checkpoint on Sunset Boulevard, in Beverly Hills, California.


See the rest of the story here

boyz n da hoodz



Mall bans shoppers' hooded tops

Hooded tops, baseball caps and swearing have been outlawed at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
The retail and leisure complex is bringing in a zero-tolerance approach to intimidating conduct.

Monday, May 30, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #18

A WARTS ‘N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON…MY VIRGINITY



Written : October 4, 2004


I opened an eyelid halfway to what may still have been morning. My partner under the covers coughed and turned over beside me.

I had time for one quick scout left and right before my eyeballs’ motion alerted the rest of my head that the punishment for consuming the guts of two bottles of Jack Daniels was long overdue. I then had time for a quick groan of pain before my bladder caught the relay of the same message.

Luckily my memory banks were activated before I felt the necessity to resolve the conflict between my desire to move towards the bathroom and my desire to stay perfectly still. Thanks to them, despite my numerous aches, pains and imminent needs, I managed a broad, beaming smile. My joy got my adrenaline pumping enough to get myself standing, release a gaping yawn, and focus on the immediate task ahead. Though I wasn’t yet quite sure exactly how it transpired, I knew it had somehow finally happened and that was good enough for me.

It was now time for me to come out of the closet.

Intrigued??? Thought you may be…let me take you back a few days, shall I?

I was an extremely naïve 18-year-old, and that was not just because I was still a virgin. In that time I had failed to develop anything resembling regular social skills, although seemingly I exuded some kind of external confidence which surely did anything but reflect what was going on in my head, particularly when it came to the opposite sex. My only outlet for my feelings was a journal, which I kept regularly. I had probably been inspired to start doing this by my mother who had one going since she was a teenager herself.

For the summer of 1987 I went to stay with Maura in San Francisco for nine weeks, as I had the previous year. Since it was my second trip, I already knew several people and thus was not quite as uncomfortable as I had been before. There was one girl I really liked, the daughter of a friend of my mother’s – her name was Karen and she was a year older than me, half Korean, half Chinese and all American. We got on really well in some ways but in others I was intimidated by her self confidence. We went out several times in the first couple of weeks but no physical contact transpired, though looking back I am pretty sure I could have initiated something, and no doubt my lack of action must have led Karen to believe I was either uninterested in her or gay.

When I was hanging out with my mother that summer, another friend Andi (as in Andrea) would always tag along; she was a regular barfly at the NiteCap, the hole in the wall dive where Maura worked right on the edge of the Tenderloin. Despite the fact that she was a qualified architect and had a good ten years on Karen, Andi didn’t have half of her self-esteem, hence the NiteCap residency. She did, however, possess a sharp wit which I would have found appealing. I guess I never took her flirting with me seriously for the very reason my mother was always there when she did.

As a result of this blissful ignorance of Andi’s intentions, I was perfectly at ease sitting in with her and my mother drinking beer and getting stoned one evening. The flirting was still going on, I still did not think anything of it. Then Maura decided it was time to turn in, so she did. I continued to believe since she was one wall away then the touching and sly kissing and playfulness were all perfectly innocent. One more joint later and I was rolling around on the sofa with a woman 11 years my senior. One hour later I was escorting her down to the front door of the building into her taxi home and she practically had to prise herself free from my clutches to avoid her ride taking off.

Now, let’s skip ahead to a couple of hours after the opening sequence. The reason for all the time travel is that it was the only way I could keep you guessing with the whole “out of the closet” thing. Having made my way back to Maura’s apartment, I wrote this in my journal :

Saturday, August 1, 1987, 1:33pm

Well, my dear diary, it has finally happened. I am now fit to be considered a member of the human race. I am no longer a virgin. So much for Andi just being a friend! We went to this Irish bar on Haight, then after meeting her friend Julie’s boyfriend we got a cab back to his apartment which is where we stayed the night. They had set up a bed in their huge walk-in closet [sorry for misleading you but I’m sure you appreciate it was hard to resist – I’m as straight as straight can be] and that’s where Andi and me did it. We made love three times in all, polishing off three bottles of Jack Daniels between us on top of all the beers. How do I feel right now? Tired and hung over!!!

When Maura finally worked out about a week later what was going on between me and her friend, she came up with the tale that she in fact set the whole thing up. Whether this is true or not I will never know – both scenarios are equally believable.

Either way, I sure didn’t care, cos I got mine.

I was sad when I said goodbye to Andi a few weeks later before returning to Ireland to begin college. I was never to see or hear from her again. Looking back, it was all for the best – I have a feeling if I had instead been with Karen I may have decided to stay in America to be with her or something foolish like that.

© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #19 : 1000 WORDS ON…QUASI-TREKKIE-NESS

Saturday, May 28, 2005

execute order sixty-six



OK, I’ve been to it, and it was great, filling in all the blanks that needed to be filled, tying up all the loose ends that needed to be tied.

I don’t think it has been out long enough for spoilers, so I won’t give any.

My only bitch was the special effects. As much as I loved Lord Of The Rings, in the last instalment at the wedding ceremony when they first cut to the four hobbits I actually said out loud, “They’re SO not there!” and it led me to wonder why bother including that shot when they couldn’t make it look realistic. The same goes for several parts of RotS, especially the heads of the clones. It was CGI at its worst IMHO. The multiple Agent Smith thing worked in The Matrix because his suit was black. With the clones, they wear white, and even the one that was doing the talking was CGI. Eh, surely you can use the real actor there, guys!!! That’s pretty much my only beef. I know it sounds kinda picky and kinda nerdy, but it just didn't look right.

I'm still gonna go again though - it's only fair, my kids wanna see it (my excuse and I'm sticking to it).

castro-enteritis

jim's film meme

Try saying THAT heading ten times fast!!!!


Here’s my answers to Jim’s meme as requested…I will do my Episode III review shortly…

1. What was the last movie you went to see? Revenge of the Sith last night.

2. What is your all-time favorite movie and why? Did you see it at the theater, or was it a video/DVD? I am going to ignore Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and The Matrix and such as much as I enjoyed them because they were all expected to be successes. Instead I am going to nominate LA Confidential, which I saw on video, and for which I had no excpectations whatsoever, and was gripped right to the very end.

3. What movie stands out in your mind as the one which made you cry the most? Funnily enough, Cry Freedom. I’m kind of a human rights buff largely due to seeing it. Reading about apartheid was one thing, but seeing it acted out brought it to a whole new level. Most tearful moments were the scenes at Biko’s funeral, with tens of thousands of people of all races singing what went on to be the South African national anthem, and the part where the man leaned out of a car and shot a young fleeing boy during the Soweto massacre.

4. What is the funniest movie you've seen? What was your favorite part or line from that movie? Hands down, Monty Python’s “The Life Of Brian”. This movie was banned in Ireland for ten years because the church thought it parodied the life of Jesus, when in the story, Jesus is actually portrayed as himself reciting his “Blessed are the…” speech verbatim, with all the silliness taking place with different characters who were supposedly attending the event. My grandparents did not want anything to do with the movie, so I promised them I would never rent it. I kept my word and bought it instead! Funniest bit? Yeesh…when Brian opens his window stark naked and finds a huge crowd waiting outside who think he’s the Messiah – then after he covers himself, his mother arrives and proclaims to the throng : ”There’s no Messiah in here!!!! There’s a mess alright, but there’s no Messiah!!!”

5. Is there a movie which changed your opinion on something? What movie was it? Sorry to cop out on this one, but it really was Cry Freedom, as outlined in #3.

6. What is the worst movie you've ever paid to see at the theater? There have been so many two hours I want back … most recent was “White Noise” with Michael Keaton.

7. Popcorn? Jujifruits? Licorice? Junior Mints? Nachos? or Raisinettes? Popcorn. Doesn’t rot your teeth, and you can spill as much as you want and not give everyone that sees you afterwards a telltale clue what you’ve been eating.

8. Have you ever been intimate with someone while watching a movie at the theater? What movie was it the last time? (Please don't say Schindler's List!) Are you still with this person? Yes, but never more than mooching. The last time was at the awful Michael keaton movie I named earlier. Yes, I am engaged to her.

9. Have you ever screamed while watching a movie or shouted at the screen? What did you say? “Mom! Stop laughing so goddam loud! Everyone’s looking!”

10. Name your favorite movie soundtrack. Can you remember the part of the movie where your favorite song is played? Overall soundtracks, anything Tarantino, escpecially Kill Bill, mostly because Uma rocks in it. As for soundtrack to one part of a movie, it has to be “The Duel Of The Fates” in Star Wars Ep I, with the excellent fight scene with Darth Maul, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon.
+++++++++++++++++++++++

FYI I have my own movie related meme on the boil which I will be starting soon. I’ll let Jim’s see its course first though.

Friday, May 27, 2005

"irish spring" box



When you ask a Dubliner his opinion on something, more often than not he will want to first size you up for your own stance before he replies. His first words may very well be something like “Ah, sure ya know yerself!!!”

I thought this would make a fitting title for my recently launched blog for rants on Ireland-specific issues, and I may as well give it a plug here. Every day I hear something in the local news which makes me want to climb on my soapbox, and I feel this ABOPATOS blog is more for my creative side and thus a series of forceful and possibly controversial speils wouldn’t really fit in. Feel free to drop by, if you're lucky there may be a pint or two in it for ya.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

four weeks to u2 concert and counting…

from Vertigo 2005 tour


What a picture. Trust me; it makes for a stunning wallpaper.
This sums up Bono’s rapport with his fans. Could that be anything but a look of pure sincerity on his face. To me, it does not say “I’m a super-rich rock star and you’re not ya sad bastard” like the way so many prima donnas act these days. His face instead says, “I’m a super-rich rock star thanks to fans just like you. Thank you.”

Bring on their gig in Croke Park on June 24. It's going to be quite a day, I can't wait, though I guess I gotta. There really is no better place to see them than Dublin – sorry, rest of the world!!!

On a different musical note, I heard the new Oasis single “Lyla” [Yes, Clapton fans, that’s “Layla” with only one “a”] for the first time last night – I think it’s gonna grow on me, could be this summer’s anthem. You can have a listen by playing around with this cool player thingy from their website.
+++++++++++++++
Also in music news, I just found this story on Irish TV network RTE's website. It is a complete coincidence that I did a post on Live Aid only yesterday. The chapters from my autobiography have been posted in sequence once every five days since I began. Honest!
Geldof & Ure reveal Live Aid follow-up plans

Bob Geldof and Midge Ure have revealed plans for a music event to follow-up Live Aid.

The pair have said that the event, which will reportedly coincide with the G8 summit in July, will not be called Live Aid II.

It is also reported that the music spectacular will take the form of a series of concerts around the world, rather than one huge concert in a particular venue.

Speaking earlier today, Ure said: "I can say there's never going to be a Live Aid II but there's something brewing."

"It's big. And it's as petrifying as the build up to Live Aid, if not more so," Ure said. "We'll have all the biggest names we can find. But it's not just about big names, it's about making a point."

Speaking about the possibility of a follow-up to Live Aid Geldof said: "What started 20-years ago is coming to a political point in a few weeks."

"There's more than a chance that the boys and girls with guitars will finallyget to turn the world on its axis and I need you there with us," Geldof said. "What we do in the next five weeks is seriously, properly, historically, politically important."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #17

A WARTS ‘N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON…LIVE AID
Written: December 14, 2004 [The latest version of the song that started the Live Aid phenomenon, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, by the European music stars of today, is at number one in the UK charts today]


“GIVE US YOUR FUCKIN MONEY!!!!”

The date was July 13th, 1985.

It was a day when the Western Civilization woke up and realized they could actually make a difference and see the human race as something worth living for.

It was a day when a load of larger than life egos got together and shared a couple of stages to give the world a powerful message.

It was a day when so much money was raised it made me wonder if it was the lack of money that was really the problem.

It was a day when I realized the irrelevence of the word “charity”, which suggests the condescending offering of crumbs from our table, when events like this should happen more out of a sense of duty to ensure that everyone can claim their rightful place at it.

It was a day I never wanted to end.



When it came to dinnertime in the Lee household, it was the culmination of what could have been up to 24 hour’s preparation on the part of my grandmother. Were there to be one, the conversation at the table was usually her arguing with me over generation-gap-fuelled topics while my grandfather sat eating, unfazed by it all.

One day, however, he chose to join in, when I broached the subject of Live Aid, which was a couple of weeks away at the time. I thought since my grandparents were religious they may have appreciated those involved for the work they were doing. To my absolute amazement, they both turned up their noses when I mentioned Bob Geldof’s name.

“What’s wrong with him?”, I asked.

Maybe he didn’t have an actual voice, but Grandpa’s facial expressions more than made up for lack of sound when he was making a point. “I don’t like him, he is way too vulgar”, he whispered, as his wife nodded vigorously across the table.

“Oh, for God’s sake, can you not see the point of what he’s doing? Who cares about the language he’s using??? Why can’t you open your eyes and see what’s going on instead of giving out about his actual words???”

And with that I stormed off and slammed the door of my room. This may be a common teenage occurrence in most households, but it was the only time I ever did it. I assumed I would be in all kinds of trouble for committing the heinous act of taking the Lord’s name in vain at the dinner table.

In reality, nothing was done, nothing was said. The three of us continued living in our own social coccoons right up to the day of the concert, when of course I was rooted to the television all day. I presume he was in his room reading and she was knee deep in whatever she got knee deep in to prepare yet another meal.




I was oblivious to them both as I took in the events of the day. Sting’s performance of Roxanne and Every Breath You Take. The shots of starving African children between acts, particularly when put to the tune of The Cars’ “Drive” which had to bring tears to the eyes of all who watched. U2’s breathtaking set which fully cemented their place on the world stage, and which was highlighted by Bono breaking down the barriers between performers and spectators by taking a few girls out of the crowd to dance with him. Phil Collins’ madcap dash across the Atlantic to be able to say he performed at both gigs in London and Philadelphia. David Bowie suggesting they do the concert every year, why not indeed.



And of course, there was Bob Geldof himself making his famous plea throughout. His words highlighted the shame we all must feel that he should even have to ask. If you had a sandwich and a starving man was put down beside you, what would you do? I could not understand with my tender sixteen years why all I heard in the news was crap about butter mountains when a concert like this had to be put on to convince people to help the starving.




At some stage while I was transfixed in the living room, my grandmother tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a cheque made out to Live Aid for IR£20. It may not have been much, but receiving that cheque made me feel so good. The concert really did manage to unite the world in a common cause; even the so-called out of touch older generation was taking notice. With that, I found an envelope, slipped the donation inside, and sent Bob our fuckin money.

It was a combination of the death of my father-in-law, the impending birth of my first child, and the tenth anniversary of the release of the original “Band Aid” hit that inspired my Christmas song “While We”. So far a few donations and the song are my only real contributions to Geldof’s cause. One day I hope to have the balls to put my actions where my pen is.


WHILE WE (written 1994)

While we fly to the sky
Do we stop to think and wonder why?
And while we fight day and night
Do we really know what’s wrong and right?
For while we argue and while we lie
A newborn baby starts to cry

Is the Band Aid dream still happening
Or was it all just an eighties thing?
For while we sing tills they ring
We have to pricetag everything!
And while we haggle and while we buy
One more decade passes by!

(chorus)
Food not bombs, love not money
Homes not parking lots; Do you think it’s funny
That while we argue and while we lie
A newborn baby starts to cry?

While we analyze, while we moralize,
While we theorize, do we empathize?
While we polarize, compartmentalize,
We fail to realize the need to harmonize
And while we eat our fries and plump for supersize
One more hunger victim dies.

(chorus)


© JL Pagano 2004


NEXT, #18 : 1000 WORDS ON…MY VIRGINITY

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

no matter how

No matter how much I want to be good I have to be bad
No matter how much I want to stay sane I have to go mad
No matter how much I want to tell the truth I know I have to lie
No matter how much I want to stay alive one day I have to die

Sorry if I depress ya
Sorry if I annoy ya
With all this talk of death despair
Pain and paranoia

But when reality
Gets the better of me
Darkness is all that I can see

No matter how loud I’m screamin
I can’t shout down these demons in my soul
They’re out of control
Demons in my soul

No matter how much I want to be normal I have to be odd
No matter how much I’d rather play human I have to play God
No matter how hard I try to save money I always lose interest
No matter how much I want to stay faithful I must have a mistress

Sorry if I offend ya
Sorry I have to warn ya
About all this talk of sex evil
Hate and California

But then reality
Gets the better of me
With darkness as far as I can see

No matter how loud I’m screamin
I can’t shout down these demons in my soul
They’re out of control
Demons in my soul

Sometimes I feel like I’m caught like a deer in the headlights
As I’m choosing a road I can follow
But if I were to do what I thought right
Would I choke on the pride I must swallow?

Demons in my soul



© JL Pagano 1997


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

Monday, May 23, 2005

clear sky at night, merchant’s delight?

Is a night sky like this one far, far away???

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

courtesy of the Reuters Oddly Enough files…

The U.S. government does not want billboards in space.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed on Thursday to amend its regulations to ensure that it can enforce a law that prohibits "obtrusive" advertising in zero gravity.

"Objects placed in orbit, if large enough, could be seen by people around the world for long periods of time," the FAA said in a regulatory filing.

Currently, the FAA lacks the authority to enforce the existing law.

For instance, outsized billboards deployed by a space company into low Earth orbit could appear as large as the moon and be seen without a telescope, the FAA said.
Big and bright advertisements might hinder astronomers.

"Large advertisements could destroy the darkness of the night sky," regulators said.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Could they? Really? Ya think? Good to know there’s committee meetings out there going on to make these crucial decisions – these people sure do earn their salaries, don’t they?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

the right thing to say

I was reminded of this story by the following piece by Chuck over at “Burst Transmission”, though he actually posted it on KBB’s “What Middle America Thinks”. They are both excellent thought-provoking blogs, as my post goes to show.

Fidelitas

Of all personality traits, I value loyalty the most.

I will admit that I make certain caveats to my value of loyalty. My loyalty to someone ends to a great extent as soon as I feel that person has not been loyal to me.

I don't tell secrets people expect me to keep - especially those most damaging to a person's life. I expected to be treated the same.

I expect my friends not to publicly side with others in arguments. Friends will surely disagree from time to time, but true friends stand together in public and handle their differences in private.

I have more thoughts on this, but for now I'll pass the subject to the readers. What constitutes and doesn't constitute loyalty for you?

You can’t spend 12 years going out with/married to someone without a few of their personality traits rubbing off on you, no matter how bad the break-up was. One thing I inherited from my ex-wife was a tendency to do the exact opposite of what Chuck claims a friend should do as described above. If we were in company and I launched into a certain point of view with which she disagreed, she would put forward her point regardless of how it would make me (and us) look. This never actually bothered me at the time, though you won’t be surprised to learn that it does now. It never occurred to me to say to her even when we were alone that maybe it looked better if we presented a more united front when in company. Who knows, maybe the people who witnessed us constantly disagreeing saw the demise of our marriage coming a mile away. I sure didn’t.

One fine Sunday my fiancee (the debate whether to precede that with the word “current” still rages in my head; these parenthises provide a stop-gap compromise) Sandra and I spent the afternoon in her mother’s house, which we often do. Due to the good weather we brought her golden retriver Jessie down to the local park for a bit of exercise. One good thing about this tale is that it gives me a chance to post this picture yet again :


This was taken by my mobile phone on a different bout of Sunday dog-walking when my kids were with us. The blurred nature of the pic makes it look like a painting and in my opinion it encapsulates what sunny Sunday afternoons are all about.

ANYWAY – on the day in question it was just Sandra, myself and Jessie. We went all the way to the far side of the park and sat on a bench for a while, shooting the breeze while the pooch regained her breath. Jessie is about 12 years old so obviously she is not as lively as she may have been before.

So there we were resting, minding our own business, when two middle aged ladies jogged by. They were passing a good few yards ahead of us, and for some reason, when they came into Jessie’s sights, she decided to bark loudly. She didn’t pounce, she didn’t run towards the women, she just barked. As Sandra has always maintained, she is a gentle sort that wouldn’t harm a fly.

Both ladies were scared out of their wits. Sandra admonished the dog and apologized to the pair. Seemingly my partner’s remorse was not as contrite as it could have been according to one of the ladies.

“That bloody dog should be on a leash for God’s sake!” she exclaimed, her faced bathed in red from a combination of anxiety and jog-induced exhaustion.

Then, from out of the blue, someone retorted :

“Oh yeah? Well maybe if you weren’t so goddam ugly she wouldn’t have barked in the first place!!!!”

I chuckled to myself : Who the hell said that? Whoever it was, fair play to them, for while it may have been unnecessarily cruel, the lady could have at least accepted the apology.

With that the pair put their noses in the air with perfect synch, and proceeded to jog off at a pace understandably more brisk than before.

Once they had gone, Sandra nearly fell off the bench with laughter.

“Jeff, that is the funniest thing I ever heard! I really thought you were going to give out to me in front of them!!!”

Surprise hit me on two fronts – first, that it was actually me who hurled the insult, and second that yes, indeed, it would have been more likely that I would have publicly scolded my partner in the past.

Sometimes the right thing to say just isn’t the right thing to say.

I was delighted to discover that at least one of my ex’s legacies had been banished for good. I wonder if she in turn is getting over a habit of getting Pringles crumbs all over her computer keyboard?


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

pots and kettles

LONDON (Reuters) -

Britain's Sun tabloid published another picture on Saturday of Saddam Hussein in prison [in his underwear] and robustly defended its decision to print such images despite Pentagon claims it may have violated the Geneva Conventions.


Oh my good Lord! Breached the Geneva Conventions have they? So the Bush administration considers that to be a crime now, does it? Please...

I know it has been said several times already, but I'll say it anyway cos it's funny....now at LAST we know where Saddam was keeping his WMD...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

le concours des chansons merdes


A while ago I made fun of a particular TV show, “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Living in Europe as I do, I can imagine many Americans reading that piece would assume I was having a swipe at all things red white and blue and would no doubt jump to its defence. In reality, there are several TV offerings from across the pond I enjoy, with “The West Wing”, “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under” being among my perennial favourites.

Even so, I feel compelled to berate some European television fare to even the score, and tonight’s “Eurovision Song Contest” (ESC), a glorified talent show comprising around 40 or so nations across the continent, gives me the perfect opportunity to do so.

This annual event is under the stewardship of an organization known as “The European Broadcasting Union” (EBU). Casual observers from the USA would be forgiven for thinking this was our equivalent of ABC or NBC, but in reality, it is far from it. It is actually a blanket body representing each country’s state-funded television networks. I can only assume the purpose of this occasion is to both justify and perpetuate the EBU’s existence, because I sure don’t hear much about it the rest of the year.

As Ireland discovered throughout the 90’s, the worst thing a country can do in the ESC is actually win it, since this inflicts you with the severe financial burden of hosting the damn thing the following year. I think we won three times in a row at one point which meant our national network RTÉ (and in turn the taxpayers) had to repeatedly foot the bill. This year, at least, our entry hasn’t even managed to qualify for the final night, so we can leave our hands out of our pockets for another year.

So what’s wrong with a televised song contest between nations I hear you ask? You obviously haven’t heard any of the songs. They are beyond awful. They are one of the reasons the term “Eurotrash” was first coined. And what’s more, each country has its own contest a few months before to decide which one gets to make it to the ESC so when you see a bunch of people croaking out their entry on stage for the final event, you are struck by the realization that this four minutes of audio torture actually the best that nation had to offer. It beggars belief what the other songs were like. Let’s just say it’s not exactly somewhere we’re going to find the next Lennon/McCartney and leave it at that when it comes to the talent pool.

Having said all of this, there is at least one part of the evening that makes worthwhile viewing - the voting. Once the thirty or so, er, “acts”, have completed their routines, we are then treated to the technological wizardry of the computer scoreboard which contains all of the countries listed in alphabetical order at first, until the show’s host speaks one by one to representatives of each of the participating countries to discover how their viewers have voted for the winner.

The rules for voting are simple. You pick up your phone and dial the appropriate number that corresponds to your favourite, with the understandable proviso that you cannot vote for you own country. An amusing aside to this format – last year a convoy of people from Wexford (south coast of Ireland) travelled up and over the border with the UK-ruled Northern Ireland to commandeer phone boxes and make multiple votes for their local boy who was representing The Emerald Isle. Their hero still didn’t win – no doubt their Ukrainian counterparts living near the border with Poland did likewise in greater numbers.

Each nation then ranks its final tally and awards “points” to their top ten. When they are called on to reveal their results, they read out their list in ascending order, with respect of course given to Europe’s multi-lingual nature. And so a typical exchange between the show’s MC and a country’s representative could go like this…

MC : “And now we go to Berlin, guten abend Deutschland!”

German rep : “Guten abend! And thank you for hosting such a wonderful event tonight! [translation – on behalf of German State Television, thank God we didn’t have to pay for this!!!] Here are the results of the German jury…Belgium, one point.”

MC : “Belgium, one point, Belgique, un point.”

GR : “Netherlands, two points.”

MC : “Netherlands, two points, Pays-Bas, deux points.” …….


And so this goes on until the top mark of twelve (douze) points is awarded to that country’s perception of the best of an extremely bad lot. The computer then instantly calculates the total scores and tells you who’s in the lead before they move on to the next country’s voting. In case you’re wondering, it has apparently been mathematically proven over the years that countries tend to award their votes along predictable political lines. In other words, the UK would give top marks to Ireland, Ireland would give no points to the UK and Switzerland would give equal points to everyone if they could.

Actually, when Ireland are competing, and are still in the running with the voting towards the end, you can actually get into it a bit, but it is simply mindless patriotism since anytime I’ve cheered to the words “Irelande, douze points” I would have completely forgotten how the song which attracted the marks actually sounded. Since we failed to get past the first round this year, I think I can find better things to do with my Saturday night than tune in to events from Kiev.

It still bugs me that I’m helping to pay for it, though. All I ever got out of it was an ability to name most of the countries of Europe in French, which makes it a pretty lavish foreign language course if you ask me. The title of this piece, which very loosely translates to “The Awful Song Contest”, I had to search online.

Friday, May 20, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #16

A WARTS ‘N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON…INSOMNIA QUESTIONS
Written: December 5, 2004

1. Why do we call it “common sense” if so many people don’t seem to have it?

2. We were once absolutely convinced that the world was flat – what else that we take for granted is complete crap?

3. If the author didn’t really care whether or not Jimmy cracked corn, then why did he write a song about it?

4. Does the fridge light really stay switched off when the door gets closed?

5. What is it that makes us want to touch a plate in a restaurant immediately after we’ve been told it’s very hot?

6. If someone did find a cure for the common cold, would companies that make remedies prevent them from sharing it with the world?

7. Which is more believable – that the universe carries on for ever or that there exists an end to it?

8. If the very word “nation” implies the presence of borders and thus the existence of divisions between different groups of people, how can an organization call itself “The United Nations” and expect to be effective?

9. How do animals and small babies know to look us in the eye?

10. Is there any human alive that claims to have witnessed Adolf Hitler doing a good deed?

11. Who do people think they’re impressing when they answer the phone by saying “yellow” instead of “hello”?

12. Since we all know that so many people cheat on their taxes and that so many transactions are on the “black market” that can’t be accounted for, how can we possibly take any official economic figures seriously?

13. Is the reason soccer is so unpopular in America REALLY that it’s “boring” as so many claim or is it actually because they’re not best in the world at it and they don’t like seeing their guys lose?

14. Is there any sentence that could be put on a piece of paper that could be endorsed and subsequently signed by leaders representing every single human being alive on the planet?

15. Who decided which way was north and which was south and why?

16. Assuming noone will ever run 100 meters in 0 seconds, just how low is the world record going to get before it becomes impossible to break?

17. Why do I waste so much time lamenting the fact that the world doesn’t understand me, when it’s far more likely to be the other way round?

18. If the oil companies all know that there is a finite supply of their product, then what’s their back-up plan?

19. How on earth can we produce ads which can persuade people to spend their money on things like cola and sportswear yet nobody seems to be able to make a memorable advert for a “charitable organization”?

20. If someone discovered a drug that gave us instant orgasms that was cheap and had no adverse side effects, would it guarantee the end of the human race?

21. Would everyone who claims to be in favour of capital punishment be willing to actually flick the switch or release the gas themselves?

22. Is it really that important for all spelling and grammar to be correct?

23. Exactly what is the benefit of having your seatbelt fastened in an airplane other than to ensure everyone is in their seat?

24. How can a candidate be considered to have been democratically elected to a position when more than half of the votes were cast against them?

25. Why do we call it “charity” when it’s more like a duty?

26. How many spectators of professional wrestling believe the participants are actually competing?

27. How can something with the name “Reality TV” be so popular all over the world when the very fact that all the contestants know they are being filmed must prove it’s anything but reality?

28. How on earth did they discover popcorn?

29. How can a group of people who claim to be “pro-life” only be prepared to discuss abortion?

30. Kennedy, Reagan and Pope John Paul II were all shot shortly after visits to Ireland – coincidence?

31. Why can’t people be “shevelled” or “gruntled” or “kempt”?

32. If they drive on the left in South Africa but on the right in neighbouring countries, what happens at the borders?

33. Why do transport companies refer to their customers as “passengers”?

34. Will anyone ever be bothered to read this chapter?

35. If someone does read the chapter and actually knows the answer to any of these questions, would they take the time to email it to jlpagano@eircom.net?

36. What exactly is it that makes me feel happy/sad whenever my soccer team wins/loses when there is absolutely nothing I can do about it?

37. If something can be “feasible”, how exactly does one feas?

38. Why did so many people laugh when Rodney King asked “Can’t we all just get along”?

39. Do drivers who take incredible risks to overtake you actually realise they can’t possibly have cut their journey shorter by more than a minute by doing so?

40. Instead of pondering whether the glass is half full or half empty, why doesn’t someone just drink it?

41. Dreams – what the hell are they all about?

42. Attending operas – do people do it for the experience or to say they went?

43. Surely even national lotteries have to be rigged to some degree?

44. Does the fact that so many people like judges, solicitors, policemen and such earn their living from others breaking the law mean a complete and permanent end to all crime would not be an ideal occurrence for everyone?

45. How can a “force” be said to be “peacekeeping”?

46. Exactly how many people would a weapon have to kill for it to be considered one of “mass destruction” and would one that killed that number minus one be ok?

47. What the bloody hell is really going on???

48. What final question can I ask to make this chapter exactly 1000 words?

© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #17 : 1000 WORDS ON…LIVE AID

Thursday, May 19, 2005

the circle is now complete

It’s been about 28 years, so I think I can wait one more week to see “Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” after all the people who had the wherewithal (not to mention the profound lack of shame) to book their seats for the opening screenings months in advance.

I just wish I hadn’t read in the paper that Anakin becomes Darth Vader, I hate it when the ending gets spoiled, apologies if I have done so for you.

No doubt I will be posting a review in due course.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

stick that in your smoking gun


I doubt Tony Blair would have been too pleased with the prospect of George Galloway facing him across the House of Commons floor. What does surprise me, however, is that he has pulled the remarkably transparent stunt of calling on his buddy in The White House to have the prominent anti-war campaigner publicly accused of profiting financially from the Saddam Hussein regime, a claim that has already been successfully challenged in the British courts following a full libel case against The Daily Telegraph.

Galloway rose to the challenge yesterday and faced the US Senate Committee hearing, in an exercise he compared to Daniel entering the lion’s den. As with that story, the lions were silenced, but in this case it was the British MP’s defiance and profound eloquence that kept the predators at bay.

Here are some of the quotes from George Galloway as he confronted his accusers on a US Senate sub-committee.

· "I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf."

· "I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice."

· "You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever having written to me or telephoned me, without any contact with me whatsoever and you call that justice."

· "I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns."

· "You have nothing on me Senator [Coleman], except my name on lists of names in Iraq, many of which were drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Iraq."


· "Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars? The answer to that is nobody and if you had anybody who paid me a penny you would have produced them here today."

· "One of the most serious mistakes you have made in this set of documents is such a schoolboy [error] it makes a fool of the efforts you have made."

· "Senator [Coleman], in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies."

· "Senator [Norm Coleman, committee chairman], this is the mother of all smoke screens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth."
· “I opposed the oil-for-food program with all my heart, not for the reasons that you are troubled by it, but because it was a program which saw the death … of a million people, most of them children, in Iraq.”


Despite Galloway’s victory in the recent election, I would suspect that it was more of a moral one than it was one that will prolong his future in British politics. Since Kofi Annan’s days as UN Secretary-General may very well be numbered, I can think of no better replacement than George Galloway himself. There's one to put the cat among the pigeons. Considering the mincemeat he made of Senator Coleman & co, imagine him taking on John Bolton??? I have a feeling Bolton's nomination would be withdrawn pretty quickly.

If you have the time, I suggest you follow this link and play the video file. Whatever your opinion of the war in Iraq, try to focus on the manner with which the man deports himself in his own defence in what had to be intimidating circumstances.

Monday, May 16, 2005

hit album. three more. another? yes!


In this day and age where record companies’ PR machines have no shame in hailing their teenage fledgelings as “international superstars” after just one song let alone one album, I remain determined to stick to the line in the sand I drew over a decade ago when it came to declaring what I thought to be a good act.

I contend a band cannot be considered to be great unless their fifth album is at LEAST as good as their first.

Thankfully Stereophonics’ offering number five “Language. Sex. Violence. Other?” fits the bill nicely. Now I can write about them.

The Rolling Stone gave this album just 2 out of 5. What the hell do they know. That’s only because since they’re “British” (albeit Welsh rather than English) they chose to compare them to Oasis and Blur. Brit Rock my ass. I hate to break it to you, Rolling Stone people, but the USA does not hold the international rights to play rock n roll.

Having said that, I very much doubt Kelly Jones and the boys care what America thinks of them. All they want is to do the whole sex, drugs & rock n roll thing. No profound concepts, no hidden messages, no mysterious album covers, just catchy riffs and jumpy tunes in plentiful supply. I reckon they are exactly where Oasis and Blur would want to be right now, as each of them succumbed to the “Let’s-Push-The-Fact-That-We’re-British-Maybe-The-Yanks-Will-Hail-Us-As-The-Next-Beatles” temptation, and are now trying to regress to their roots.

I included the link to the Rolling Stone review purely because it allows you to sample some of their music. “Dakota” is the current hit single, and their first UK number one.

Put in the simplest terms, a Stereophonics CD is all you need to play in your car on a sunny day. I know this because I did it only yesterday. That's good for at least four outta five if you ask me.
PS : I just checked out their official site and it's way cool. It's a bit psychadelic when the first page loads, but move your cursor around the screen and find the "Media" section and your will be able to listen all their hits without actually being able to download them. Try "Dakota" for starters. After that, maybe "Just Looking" and "Have A Nice Day". Then you're on your own.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #15

A WARTS ‘N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY
1000 WORDS ON…TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC
The latest instalment of my autobiography "Stories Worth A Thousand Words" is all about how a boy who was born in Walnut Creek, California and raised in Dublin, Ireland grew to develop a lifelong fanaticism for a soccer team that is based in London, England. Since it's all about sports, I thought I would post it over on my sister sports-writing blog "Just As Well It's Only A Game!". Normal service will resume with the next chapter in a few days.
NEXT, #16 : 1000 WORDS ON…INSOMNIA QUESTIONS

Saturday, May 14, 2005

1-800-got-2-pee

from Ananova's Quirky files...

Dial-a-toilet launched in China

The world's first telephone toilet location system is to be launched in Shanghai next month.

The move was announced at the First World Toilet Forum held in the Chinese city, reports City Express.

Users dial a special number and the system tells them the location of the nearest public toilet.

In the future, it will also give them information such as whether or not the conveniences are free of charge.

Sun Guizhi, director of the Shanghai city cleaning office, said: "The system is mainly for tourists who come to the city for the first time."
++++++++++++++++++++++
I can hear it now...
[Chinese translation] "Thank you for calling Dial-A-Toilet. Your call is very important to us. If you have to do a Number 1, press 1. If you have to do a Number 2, press 2. If you wish to speak to an operator, cross your legs and hold and your call will be answered in rotation. We will play soothing waterfall sounds while you are waiting."
Can you imagine taking part in something called "The First World Toilet Forum"??? What would the agenda be like?
Item #1 : Dial-a-Toilet
Item #2 : Developing the Toilet Seat No Man Can Leave Up
Item #3 : Remarketing The Bidet
Feel free to contribute...

Friday, May 13, 2005

time for a shaggy

Winner of Shaggy II > Dol


I hope my regular blog buddies won’t be offended if I present The Second Shagadelic Contribution To Blogland Award (aka “The Shaggy”) to someone who is not on my BlogRoll, well not yet anyway.

I was surfing the other day and my focus was to see if there were many fellow Irish folk out there doing the blogging thing. After browsing www.irishblogs.ie, Dol’s “Tales Of A Receptionist” caught my eye. Since the award must go to a singular post, I will grant it for her first one “Corporate Whore!”, and I hope you will stop by her blog some time to follow the rest of it.

I would have thought the comic strip as a medium was long since gone, that everything had been done before, that CGI technology had killed it once and for all. Dol, with her original offering, which I guess can be described as the female equivalent of Dilbert, proves me wrong.



It just goes to show that even in the most run of the mill, mundane and seemingly pointless occupations, there can be talented creative minds on the go. Bravo Dol, take a bow.

Previous Shaggy Winner :
I > Shandi –
Who says you can’t have the fairytale?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

caught on the hop

Ah, the Merchandising Team. What fond memories those two words bring back to me. The Sexy Sirens Of Sportswear. What stunning beauties they were, each and every one of them.

What was my story again? Oh, yeah…

Working in the sports store as a staff member was quite entertaining. However, once I became manager, it became increasingly frustrating by the day. When I wasn’t trying to motivate the predominately under-18 workforce to focus on customer service, I was dealing with an irate mother who couldn’t understand that the material of her son’s replica soccer shirt could not withstand being clearly snagged by something sharp. When I wasn’t wading through a mountain of paperwork dreamed up by the mindless beaurocrats at Head Office, I was trying to explain to yet another sales rep that the very same headquarters was where they should go to peddle their assorted wares.

Somehow I would get to closing time, armed with a list of things to do the next day, a list of things I hadn’t gotten done that day, and, to top it all, a sales figure. Ah, yes, the sales figure. The actual thing on which I would be judged, yet at the same time it was the one thing I could not focus on what with staff levels being kept to a minimum and a barrage of seemingly meaningless tasks for managers being spewed forth from The Ivory Tower.

One day out of every three or so weeks, however, I managed to clear my schedule. That was the day The Merchandising Team came to my store. You could tell by looking at them that they had been hand picked by the Managing Director himself, a man well known for having an eye for the ladies. There were four of them in total – a blonde, a brunette, a mousey-brown, and a red head. They came in all shapes and sizes between them, but they were beautiful, each and every one of them.

What was my story again? Oh, yeah…

No self respecting straight man would ask for a day off when The MT were rostered to work your store. The female staff, on the contrary, would choose not to be there, primarily so they could whip out their cat claws the following day and brag about how they could have made the store look ten times better themselves. The MT didn’t have to worry about this, however, for by then they had moved on to yet another branch, and to yet another batch of Alpha Male wannabes.

And so, the MT’s van arrived around 10am, and on this particular day they needed help with a new display stand they were going to try out on our turf. Needless to say, there was no shortage of offers to help them lift it off the back of the van. Luckily I was able to pull rank and become one of the volunteers. It was nothing special to look at when bare; it was simply a two-sided mini-wall about four feet high and about eight feet wide. Its purpose was to utilise the vast space at the front of each store, a space that was originally intended to be welcoming for potential patrons, to see if the hottest lines of footwear could be attractively displayed to persuade them to visit the back of the store where the entire range was situated.

It did not take the MT girls long to fix up the exhibit, and they then went about the rest of their day, tweaking a wall configuration here, putting up fresh new posters there, keeping the male staff under their spell everywhere. Ladder-fetching, garment-holding, bulk-of-dirty-work-doing were tasks they never had to worry about, believe me.

As always, when it came to lunchtime, which the four of them would take together downstairs in my canteen, our roster was remarkably organized in such a way that I was the only one taking my break at the same time. Funny how that works out, isn’t it?

“So, Jeff, have you given your Customer Service Seminar yet?” the redhead asked me.

“My what?” Then those three words catapulted my mind back to the stack of Ivory Tower dictats I had put aside for the day. “Oh, yeah, the Seminar! Well, of course, with you lot being here I couldn’t get it done today, so I guess between tomorrow and Thursday I’ll get to it!”

“Awww….” Said the blonde, and gave her trademark pout. Imagine Sarah Chalke, aka the blonde girl from “Scrubs”. Yeah, just like her, in the flesh.

What was my story again? Oh, yeah…

“Why did you want to know?”

“Oh, we’ll be finished your store early today, and we were hoping to sit in on your seminar to see what it was like. Not to worry! We can go home early instead.”

And so, at 5pm, one hour before closing time, the hastily arranged Customer Service Seminar began down at the back of my store. It was normally quiet at this time on a Tuesday anyway, and at least getting it done now would lighten my load for the following day.

The MT girls sat side by side with their fetchers and carriers on the benches in the shoe department as I began my spiel, with the security guard manning the front door.

“The key element to good customer service” I began, “Is your approach. Obviously, the customer does not want you in their face the moment they enter the store. Still, you have to be at least aware they are there, and for example, if you see someone holding a shoe for over a minute, you can be pretty much assured that they are interested, and that you can approach them to see if they would like to try it on.”

“You mean like that chap over there?” said mousey brown, aka Kate Winslet.

At the front of the store there was a man in his fifties eyeing up a shoe at the display stand put there only that morning.

“Ah, well spotted. Exactly what I mean. Now, people, watch and learn.”

And with that I practised what I had been preaching. He was casually dressed, and he was closely examining the display shoe as I approached.

“Can I get a size in that for you to try on, sir?” I said, loud enough for my young Paduans to hear from where they were seated.

He looked up and beamed a broad smile.

“Yes, would you happen to have this in a size nine and a half?”

“Why don’t you take a seat down the back there, sir, and I’ll see if we have it for you.”

“Um, ok!”

With that, he hopped to one side. Yes, I mean hopped. From where I had been standing, I could see his torso and his right leg, but the fact that he had no left leg to speak of was beyond my vision thanks to the stand.

“Just down the back there?” He queried, as he manoeuvred his crutch (which was also cleverly hidden) into position.

“Er, yes, just there, I’ll be right back.” And with that I took the display shoe from him, placed it on its tray on the stand, and headed through the door down to the stockroom.

OK, this isn’t too bad, I thought. I can show them all how to treat every customer equally, regardless of the circumstances. Even if he doesn’t buy the shoes, I can still give him top drawer customer service, and the girls will have a glowing report to give tomorrow. What could possibly go wrong?

Ahem…

And so I found the nine and a half and went back up to the sales floor. The pupils had escaped up to the cash register to see how I got on. The customer was seated on one of the benches. As I neared him, I noticed the box was a bit lighter than it should have been.

With horror I realised there was only one shoe in the box. The right one. Its match was on display somewhere in the store. How can I show him the contents of this box without making him think I’m somehow mocking him?

Just look at the box, pretend you’ve gotten the wrong size, apologize, and go back downstairs and sort it all out! Great! No problem! Too bad I thought of that afterwards… maybe I’ll do that next time I’m in the same predicament.

“Here you go sir” I said, nervously handing him the right shoe and keeping hold of the box. “Do you…”

“Need help getting it on? No thanks you are ok.” And with that, he put it on. I could hear muffled sniggering behind me.

And so he rose to his, um, foot, and hopped around a bit with his crutch.

“That’s feels good,” he said, “Any chance of a discount?”

“Uh…”

“Well the left one is hardly any good to me, is it?”

“Uh…”

Back came the broad beaming smile.

“Relax, relax, I was only messing with you. It would hardly be any good to you, either, would it? I’ll take them, thank you.”

“What? Oh, great! OK, well just give me the box there and I’ll take them up to the register for you when you are ready.”

With that, I was able to rescue the correct left shoe from the front display, and successfully ring in the sale avoiding the collective taunts of the others as a few of them silently hopped behind the gentleman as he stood at the counter. At least I hadn’t gotten to the part of my presentation whereby I was to claim there was no (and I mean NO) shoe sale you could possibly close without at least recommending the customer buy a 3-pack of socks to go with them.

As soon as he hopped out of the store, I received a round of applause.

“Now THAT’s what I call customer service, you can even sell a pair of sports shoes to a one-legged man!” quipped the brunette. Remember Carrie-Ann Moss, aka Trinity from The Matrix? Just like her.

What was my story again? Oh, yeah…it’s finished!!!


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

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #14

A WARTS ‘N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON…MY INSPIRATIONS
Written : December 11, 2004

“What’s you’re favourite movie?”
“What music do you like?”
“What football team do you support?”

While I have no doubt there have been far more loaded questions asked in the history of the human race, these have always made me feel immense pressure over the years. With that I always seem to have several different answers for each one, and give one or two examples based on the person asking the question.

Now, at the age of 35, I feel I am finally beginning to come to terms with the fact that taste is definitely in the opinion of the beholder. Since there seems to be even a cool way to spell the word “cool”, ie k-e-w-l, I see now that it’s pointless to feel ashamed about your likes and dislikes, and I’m now finding myself able to cock a deaf ear to all those who sneer at my assorted responses.

Here’s a sample of my favourite things down the years, and I will divide them as evenly as I can into the categories of music, movies, comedy, sport, and literature.

MUSIC
Collecting albums became quite a hobby of mine over the years. I never took to vinyl, and amassed about 600 cassette tapes before I finally gave in to the lure of the compact disc. Easily my favourite band of all time was The Police, and their best song in my opinion was actually never a single; it was “Bring On The Night” from the album “Regatta de Blanc”. I found the combination of the hypnotic guitar riff, Sting’s distinctive voice and the apocalypitc lyrics irresistable, and I used to lie in the dark with my walkman and listen to it over and over. After them I suppose I would have to cite U2 as second best for their consistency and endurance. Honourable mentions should also go to REM, Genesis, The Counting Crows, Billy Joel (mostly for his lyrics), Oasis, INXS, Stereophonics and The Cure among several others.

MOVIES
The first film I remember vividly was Star Wars, the original one, which is now known as “Star Wars IV-A New Hope”. It was back in the days when the only cinemas were downtown, and you would have to get there early to survive the queues which often tailed way down the street. I was obviously hooked on all the sequels and prequels that followed, and the series will finally conclude with the release of Episode III next May.

Teenage flicks that I identified with growing up included “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”. Then came a gap of over a decade when I was going out with Ruth – we did go to movies but not regularly and renting them wasn’t anywhere near as common as it is now. In the past few years I’ve been able to catch up, with “Seven”, “LA Confidential”, “The Matrix”, “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy” being among my favourites.

COMEDY
My favorite types of humour include…

(1) The “oh isn’t that clever” genre,
(2) The “summarize a genre and attach it to the word genre” genre,
(3) The “be ironic about the last example” genre,
(4) The “do the same thing again only using different words” genre, and last but certainly not least,
(5) The “know when to stop” genre.

Monday night, 9pm, BBC2. As a teenager that was the prime slot for cutting edge British satirical comedy. Every Tuesday morning I would look forward to going into school and reliving what had gone on the night before with my classmates. “Not The Nine O’Clock News” and “The Young Ones” were probably my favourites. The first standup comedian I liked was an American guy who lived in Britain called Kelly Monteith. He introduced me to the whole “Don’t you just hate it when…” style of comedy. Other favourite routines include Robin Willams’ “Live At The Met” and Billy Connolly “Wreck On Tour”.

I didn’t discover Monty Python until I started dating MyX, as her friends were fans of them and their zany quotes. “The Life Of Brian” remains a comedy masterpiece in my opinion. Nowadays I have “Little Britain” to satisfy my comical desires, and mentions too have to go to “Fawlty Towers”, “Blackadder”, “Father Ted”, “The Office”, “Friends” and “Have I Got News For You”.

SPORT
Glenn Hoddle was my favourite soccer player growing up. He had the ability to play the game in such a way that no coach could ever teach him. All he needed was a split second to look up when the ball reached his feet and he could place a precision pass whether it be on the ground or in the air, somehow managing to work out all the angles in the blink of an eye. Spurs have had a few heroes since in the forms of Paul Gascoigne, Jurgen Kilnsmann and David Ginola, but none have come close to Hoddle’s genius.

There are two reasons I understand the rules of cricket; the first being my summer of bronchitis when aged about twelve, the second being Ian Botham. All the other cricketers played with the stiff upper lip that is synonomous with the sport; Botham went out and took on everyone that faced him, and got the desired result in the most part.

As for American ball players, I guess I can point to Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Mark McGwire and Chris Mullin.

LITERATURE
It’s ironic, is it not, for an aspiring writer not to have many literary greats included in his chapter on inspirations before now??? I guess I liked all the usual suspects like Animal Farm and Catcher in the Rye which were on the school cirriculum, but outside class I never had the attention span to stay glued to a book, with the possible exception of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend. That would always have me in stitches, mostly because I was around that age when it came out.

© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #15 : 1000 WORDS ON…TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC

Monday, May 09, 2005

anglo-irish coffee

[A warm welcome to all who have clicked over from the "scary" section of the Irish tourism website! Feel free to look over this story, but if you want to see my more recent scary stuff just click the word "Pampering" at the top of the page. Thanks again for dropping by! Oh by the way - when the tourist site says "we have to say this because some Irish may not always have on hand their customary sense of humour" they mean me because I got the wrong end of the stick when I first saw my blog mentioned there!]


You would not have to be an avid historian to know there isn’t a lot the English can say about the Irish that we would find amusing.

Normally it will be a joke involving Paddy Englishman, Paddy Scotsman and Paddy Irishman. You know, like the one where they are all in front of a firing squad, and just before Paddy Englishman is shot he distracts the riflemen by looking behind them and shouting “Tornado! Tornado!” at which point they turn around allowing him to escape. Then Paddy Scotsman catches on and at his turn shouts “Tidal Wave! Tidal Wave!” with the same result. Paddy Irishman, not to be outdone, tries the same only he chooses to shout “Fire! Fire!”

Gleesons of Booterstown, where I used to work, is a big sports pub, especially for rugby. Even though it’s not exactly in an ideal location for the big international games, they would still draw a large number of the visiting fans from the assorted nations that make up the Six Nations Championship every year.

One year, when it was the turn of the English to visit Dublin, I was working behind the counter on a Friday evening while a group of four lads from outside London enjoyed their first few pints of what was obviously to be a long weekend in the Emerald Isle, to enjoy the following afternoon’s big game, among other things.

They were an entertaining bunch, and they played off each other with a series of well timed gags and jibes that kept all within earshot entertained for a couple of hours despite any local disdain toward their country of origin.

At one stage a lady approached the counter and ordered an Irish coffee. As it would take a few minutes to prepare, I told her I would have the lounge staff bring it down to her. Once she had left to return to her group, one of the English boys seemed surprised by her order.

“Irish coffee?” he quipped, “Wot the bloody ‘ell’s that then?”

I was all set to inform him, but one of his colleagues, who was a couple of pints ahead of the others, interjected.

“I’ll tell you what an Irish coffee is, squire. You know the way you drink whiskey to get drunk and coffee to get sober? Well trust the Irish to put the two in the same bloody glass!!!”

There followed a tense silence from the foursome. This was clearly their first trip to Dublin together, and I pretty sure they had discussed before setting off the potential repercussions of using “thick-mick” humour in the wrong company.

Luckily for them this particular Irishman (albeit an honorary one) found the description to be both inoffensive and hilarious. And not just because they were good tippers, either.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

prosecution to seek stiff sentence

from the Reuters Oddly Enough files...
Three New York doctors were charged on Thursday with giving large amounts of Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs to mob members in return for construction and auto repair work done by mafia-controlled businesses.

Arlen Fleisher, Stephen Klass and George Shapiro, all doctors in Westchester County, a suburban area north of New York City, were accused of trading prescription drugs and drug samples with members and associates of the Gambino crime family. The one-count complaint was filed in Manhattan federal court.

Lawyers for all three defendants said their clients denied wrongdoing.

If convicted, the men could face a maximum 10-year prison term. They were arrested at their homes on Thursday morning and released after each posted a $50,000 bond.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Now there's a deal for ya...you fix my ride, I'll fix yours.

"Just when I thought I was down, they druuuugged me back up"

I have many more, but I fear I may lower the tone of my blog (even further...)

Friday, May 06, 2005

by george i think he's got it


The only thing that was going to hurt Tony Blair in Thursday’s British General Election was the decision to go into Iraq. Overall his Labour Party, despite all but abandoning the left wing principles on which it was founded, has left British internal affairs in pretty good shape after the past two terms since they stormed to power in 1997.

His main opposition, Conservative leader Michael Howard, had his hands tied on the Iraq issue, since the troops were deployed at the time and he could not speak out against them, much like the dilemma John Kerry faced last November.

The fly in the ointment was George Galloway. His rigorous opposition to Blair’s plans to stand beside the White House and oust the regime in Baghdad resulted in a bitter smear campaign against him, which led to his being thrown out of the Labour Party, and even to suggestions that he himself was in financial league with Saddam Hussein, a claim that was subsequently thrown out by the courts.

Instead of taking his punishment, however, Galloway formed his own party, with the simple title Respect. He picked the constituency with the largest Muslim population and ran himself on an anti-war platform. Guess what. He won by almost a thousand votes. He chose his party name extremely well if you ask me.

And so Blair gets his third term, but he also gets a stern message from his electorate.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

introducing the "shaggy"


Winner of Shaggy I > Shandi

I was inspired this morning to come up with an award to grant to posts from other blogs which make my day somehow. I could go back in time and hand out dozens of them, but I have no doubt there's a lot more where they came from on my BlogRoll, so I will let this one be the first.
And so The First Shagadelic Contribution To Blogland Award (aka "The Shaggy") goes to Shandi over at "I Have 2 Belly-Buttons" for her highly entertaining and innovative picturefest, "Who says you can't have the fairytale?".
Congrats, and may your award take pride of place on your mantlepiece.
Your acceptance speech will be limited to two minutes so we can go to a word from our sponsors.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

shoulda coulda woulda

Thanks to sex for tagging me with this meme (I’ve thanked sex for a lot of things in my day but this is definitely a first), and in turn I nominate Shan, Shandi and Kieran to keep it going. Seemingly you pick about three from the list and bang on about them in your own words, and you even get to add to it if you so desire.

If I could be a painter….
I’d have the power to make my dreams come alive.
To help people understand exactly what I see.
To help me understand exactly what I see.
To help me understand how close they are to what other people see.
The canvas of my closed eyelids does not do them justice.
The canvas of the English language does not do them justice.
Be they erotic, be they inspiring or be they terrifying, my dreams are wonderfully mysterious, each and every one.
I want to see my dreams with open eyelids.

If I could be a lawyer…
maybe I’d finally be able to discover how to distance the words coming out of my mouth from the feelings coming from my heart. Damn, I wish I could do that. That’s why so many people say I’m quiet when they first meet me.

If I could be an innkeeper…
I’d be sure I owned a place just like Jack’s in Edgeworthstown in County Longford, Ireland, which some friends and I discovered while stopping off on the way home from a weekend away a while ago. It’s small in size, has a big screen that takes up an entire wall, it offers what are undoubtedly the most amazing pints of Heineken you will ever see on draught anywhere in the known universe, and it even has the dartboard/pool table/jukebox combo that should definitely be mandatory for drinking establishments everywhere. It’s a guy’s weekend paradise, and it is where we intend to watch this year’s FA Cup Final on May 21.

Also, if I could be a writer…
I’d be happy, because the closer what you want, what you need, and what you are able to have get to each other, the closer you get to happiness.

If I could be a scientist...
If I could be a farmer...
If I could be a musician...
If I could be a doctor...
If I could be a painter...
If I could be a gardener...
If I could be a missionary...
If I could be a chef...
If I could be an architect...
If I could be a linguist...
If I could be a psychologist...
If I could be a librarian...
If I could be an athlete...
If I could be a lawyer...
If I could be an innkeeper...
If I could be a professor...
If I could be a writer...
If I could be a circus clown....(by Greg)
If I could be a llama-rider...(by Ogre)
If I could be a bonnie pirate...(By Teach)
If I could be a servicemember...(By Jeremy)
If I could be a business owner...(By Blue944)
If I could be an actor... (By Blue944)
If I could be a rich girl... (By V)
If I could be a witch...
If I could be a racer...
If I could be an assassin... (by Sex)
If I could be a Muslim cleric… (by JL)