Thursday, June 30, 2005

it can be done

“Before you finish eating your breakfast this morning, you’ve depended on half the world. This is the way our universe is structured … We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact”

Martin Luther King

The MakePovertyHistory campaign has three principal aims, all of them equally important…

Drop The Debtfor all countries, though particularly the G8, to stop acting like crippling loan sharks and write off Third World debt.

Increase Government AidIn 2000, the members of the United Nations made a series of commitments, one of which was to increase foreign aid to 0.7% of GNP, roughly speaking 70c out of every $100 earned by the average citizen, by the year 2015. Even though the G8 and other industrial nations get richer as the African countries get poorer, that commitment will not be met or even come close the way things are going.

Fair Trade not Free TradeThe term “Free Trade” sounds perfectly legitimate if you are a Western Economist, but not so much if you are an African cotton farmer who receives no subsidies and cannot get a decent price for your product even from within your own country’s borders when the bulk of the business goes to heavily-subsidized and already-wealthy farmers from the G8.

Not only should this all be done, but it can be. Very easily. Only political will is stopping it.
Of course there are those out there who think it's all pointless, and some even who think it's an excuse to display your talents as a comedian - I think Mr Twenty Major does well to represent this opinion on his blog this morning. I think I did well to represent my own with my comments.

For more information on how you can get involved, click the white band banner at the top right. Even something as simple as sending an email constitutes “getting involved”.

Remember; this time, it is not about putting your money where your mouth is, it is about putting your VOICE where your mouth is.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #24



Written: December 30, 2004

Though the chapters in this book are presented in a somewhat chronological order, they were not written as such. I listed 50 topics and gave myself until January 1st to complete them. Understandably, I have left the writing of this chapter until the eleventh hour. When the source of my anger and frustration is not my mother these days, it is invariably the person whose name adorns this chapter.

Of course, it was not always bad times. From February 4th, 1988 to March 16th, 2000, there were a hell of a lot more good times than bad, and to summarize my association with her purely on the grounds of any bitterness I may retain would be grossly unfair, especially to my kids, for whom this book is supposedly being written. I deal enough with the split in other chapters, so I will try to confine my scope to the happier times.

We met through a mutual acquaintance called Barry Mullen. He had mooched her at a few parties, and I had become friendly with him through the first year Psychology class. The Feb 4 date mentioned above was UCD Arts Day, and all the Arts students were to dress up in pyjamas and basically get blind drunk for the whole day to raise money for some charity or other.

I have to assume that Barry had hoped to be with MyX on the day, since she and her friends were sitting with us in the bar, but as it turned out she knocked over my pint of lager and was extremely apologetic, while I was extremely forgiving! Before I could say “Wait a tick, I’m still in me bloody pyjamas!” I was in her mother’s kitchen having coffee, since we had to go back to her house to get her tickets for a ball that evening, and I understandably wanted to get away from being around Barry for a while.

MyX's attractive features at the time were a stunning figure and a mass of distinctive red hair. I was still somewhat on the rebound from Cathy Neary, and naïve as I was, it was not hard for me to fall headlong into a new relationship very easily.

It wasn’t long before I was bringing her home to meet my grandparents, and she was the first girlfriend they had met. My grandfather was so interested to meet her he actually sat in the living room of our house in Blackrock, a place he rarely frequented. After I had seen MyX to her bus and returned home that night, he said to me something like; “She’s a lovely girl Jeff but don’t think she’s the only girl you are ever going to meet!” His words fell on deaf ears, and only now do I see their wisdom.

Every single stage of our association was dictated by her; our first date, our first shag, our first trip away, our first place together, our engagement, our wedding, our first baby, our first house, and ultimately, our separation. I was delighted to tag along, just happy that someone wanted to spend so much time with me. I never considered myself being led in a particular direction, nor did I even consider that a life without her wasn’t so terrible a prospect. Even when other women would flirt with me, and at the risk of sounding vain several did, I assumed that it was the fact that I was spoken for that proved the main attraction.

And so, four and a half years after our first kiss, I was shaking like a leaf at the altar in St Agnes’ Church in Crumlin as we went through our marital vows before all our family and friends. I never thought I would be nervous, but in the church I was a trembling wreck. On the contrary, she was the personification of calm, and was actually dressed and ready before her bridesmaids! After a great day for everyone, we stayed the night in a honeymoon suite and ironically got the 46A bus home to our flat in Donnybrook the following morning, for instead of the traditional 2-week honeymoon we planned to take off to the USA en route to “travelling the world”.

Although to us at the time so much about the wedding seemed perfect, a lot of it showed just how unprepared we were not just for the ceremony, but for the marriage that followed. Neither of us thought to ask the priest back for the wedding dinner! Also we actually had the nerve to ask our friends for money as a wedding present to see us on our way to the USA. If someone told me they wanted money today I would think them extremely rude, and no doubt ours felt the same.

We were happy when together, and very, very rarely had fights. What ones we had usually came when I tried to suggest a course of action contrary to that put forward by her. As she is an extremely intelligent and practical person, I rarely had a cause to disagree, but now looking back I realize that a strong relationship must involve input from both sides if it to stand a chance of surviving. It was when she asked me to give up my position as sports store manager that I finally had to draw a line in the sand, and was a line not to be crossed.

I did love MyX, and despite my transgressions, was willing to spend the rest of my life with her. Ironically it was her sense of looking at things in a practical light that rubbed off on me enough to help me get through our separation. Now, I do not resent her, I see her more as a co-worker, someone with whom I must associate without feeling the need to get too involved. We agreed to explain to our kids that they were both born out of love, a fact they will hopefully one day come to appreciate.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

when you’re seventeen

When you’re seventeen
You think you know everything
At least I did

When you’re sixteen you think you’ve got nothing to fear
Then when you’re eighteen it all becomes perfectly clear
But when you’re caught in between
It’s just a whole different scene
When you’re seventeen

You think girls are for kissing boys should be cool
You think you wouldn’t last another boring year at school
You think beer is for drinking until you get sick
And if you don’t know the top ten you’re totally thick
You think the only way to fun
Is looking after number one
When you’re seventeen

When you’re seventeen
You think you know everything
At least I did

You feel sorry for the grownups cos they look so sad
You just laugh at all the kids cos they don’t understand
You think these are the best days that you’ll ever have
At least I did

You see work as a concept really absurd
You think love has gotta be strictly for the birds
You think “responsibility” is a four-letter word
At least I did

When you’re seventeen
You think you know everything
At least I did
And some say that I still do…

© JL Pagano 1991

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

Sunday, June 26, 2005

what men want???

Reuters’ Oddly Enough files has some, er, refreshing news from the world of advertizing…

The Marlboro Man is having an identity crisis.

The Leo Burnett advertising agency, which created the iconic macho cowboy, said a new study it conducted found that half the men in most parts of the world don't know what is expected of them in society and three-quarters of them think images of men in advertising are out of touch with reality.

Most ads have lumped men into one of two groups -- the soft, caring type known as "metrosexuals," who are comfortable with facial peels and pink shirts, or the stereotypical "retrosexuals," who remain oafishly addicted to beer and sports.

"As the world is drifting toward a more feminine perspective, many of the social constructs men have taken for granted are undergoing significant shifts or being outright dismantled," said Tom Bernardin, chairman and chief executive of Leo Burnett Worldwide.

"It's a confusing time, not just for men, but for marketers as well as they try to target and depict men meaningfully," he said this week during a presentation in the south of France where the ad industry is gathered for its annual conference.

Oh no, the advertizers are finding it difficult, the poor things!!!

The issue here is not about what ads we see on our televisions – personally, I couldn’t care less if I never looked at an ad again – the issue here is whether or not we are willing to allow marketing companies to determine who we are, be it men or women, or how we are perceived?

Do I need a bunch of suits who only want to peddle cigarettes and beer and such to tell me how to be a man?

I certainly hope I’m not expected to believe all this “makes up for” ads from days gone by which presumed all women would get excited about was whether or not their washing powder got their clothes 50% whiter. More bonehead sexual stereotyping does not cancel out past bonehead sexual stereotyping.

Bloody hell, the thought of this crap being seriously discussed makes me want to go out and pick up a carton of Marlboro to relieve the stress.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

it doesn’t get any better than this

I was going to give my own account of last night, but then I saw did it so much better …

It was a beautiful night as U2 returned for their first show in Dublin in four years.

The show may have opened to a blanket of what is known locally as ‘soft mist’ - umbrellas covering the instuments and technical equipment on stage - but the second the opening chords of Vertigo came blasting out of the speakers all interest in the unseasonal summer weather was forgotten.

‘The funky side of town, the north side of Dublin,’ exclaimed Bono as the biggest audience on the tour to date, all 82,000 of them, started jumping and jiving - barely stopping for breath all night.

There were fans here tonight from across Ireland – and across the world. Every hotel in the city was booked and flights arriving into the city were jam packed with concertgoers.

‘I think that was the third time we have played that ever…’ said Bono, as a soaring rendition of Wild Horses came to a close. ‘Hope it was to your liking.’ At which point Bruce Ramus, Lighting Director, swung a spotlight on a huge banner hanging over a balcony on one of the main stands. Bono read out the greeting:’Welcome home boys… We will see you in Rome next week!’

Cue a momentary meditation on the poet Keats. U2’s first show in Dublin since 2001 seemed like a gathering of a huge extended family – and Bono took the moment to thank Adam, Larry and Edge as well as management and crew for ‘giving us such a great life’.

Introducing Miracle Drug, he recalled the last time the band had played in this stadium, not twenty years ago but three years ago, a short but special performance at the Special Olympics. It was a sign, he said, of the way that Ireland is about the future, revealing that there were some special guests here tonight from Crumlin Childrens Hospital. ‘We want to welcome them,’ he added to great cheers, ‘This song is for the doctors and nurses, especially the nurses!’

U2’s history in their home city also cropped up in the dedication of Running to Stand Still to Aung San Suu Kyi- who was given the Freedom of Dublin on the same day as U2. Last weekend she spent her sixtieth birthday, the elected leader of her people, under house arrest. And for a third night Bono ended the song singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Burmese leader, segueing into a clip of Walk On, the track from the band’s last album which was dedicated to her.

By now the show was turning into such a blinder that the rain had completely abandoned its efforts and gone off to dampen other spirits. As the applause rose to greet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the opening chords of Pride In The Name of Love created total pandemonium – a sea of raised hands and soaring voices. ‘ A dream when everyone is free and equal under the eyes of God.’

And then there was ‘Streets’, a song, as Bono said later, that has found a completely new meaning more than twenty y ears after it was written – a song originally inspired by Africa which has found new meaning in Africa in 2005. ‘This is our moment, from the charity of the old Live Aid to the justice of the new Live8,from drop the debt to trade justice to make poverty history…the journey of equality GOES ON!’

Well, it’s barely worth trying to describe the scenes that followed.‘What a beautiful night, beautiful night,’ as the singer put it. ‘It doesn’t get any better than this, this band, this home town and this stadium!’

And the ‘phone moment’ was still to come. ‘WOW!’

It seemed like no time had passed before we had reached the second version of Vertigo and the dazzling end to a memorable homecoming. ‘Oh, yes, you look so beautiful tonight…’

Friday, June 24, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #23



Written : November 23, 2004

Fr Cormac McBride had clearly put a lot of thought into how he was going to approach his Fifth Year Religion class.

Since he went on to become principal of the entire school after I left, I assume he was keen to achieve the seemingly impossible by somehow finding a way for a Catholic priest to identify with a room full of Irish teenagers in the 80’s.

With that he set off on his opening monologue, cleverly using the achievements of Bob Geldof in his Live Aid project to help explain the work he himself had recently done out on the “missions” in Africa. Among his other ditties to try to “be one of us” was one about a girlfriend he had when he was our age, and I think he even cleverly inserted the word “sex” at strategic points throughout his speech.

Whatever his precise words, they were definitely enough to hold the attention of the “Religion Class”, which by then was little more than an extra 45-minute period during which we could either study or do the homework which was due for the rest of the day. It wasn’t so much an anti-religious statement on our part; rather it was more of a practical utilization of extra time on account of there not being a Leaving Certificate paper on the topic. Normally a teacher would just come in and bang on for the duration, allowing those who so wished to get on with their work while the few who actually wanted to receive religious instruction could do so.

Where this priest failed in his preparation, however, was when he decided to allow questions from the group after his diatribe. He would probably been better served by asking us his own questions, thus retaining control of the topic at hand. Instead, possibly still blinded by his desire to connect, he told us we could ask him anything we wished on the topic of religion. “And I mean ANYTHING!!! I don’t profess to be the world’s leading expert on the subject, but I’ve been around enough to be able to hopefully give you all meaningful answers!!!” is more or less what he said.

And so I put up my hand. “Yes, there, down the back”; Fr McBride was glad that the ball was rolling quickly.

“If there was no death, would there be religion?”

I’m not sure which was loudest; the oohs, the aahs, or the hums…but for sure there was a sea of turning heads before me as the rest of the class wanted to get a glimpse of my face, as the seemingly sarcastic nature of my question clearly led them to expect a smirk of some kind. In actual fact, this was something I really wanted to know. I wasn’t simply trying to catch the priest out. My interest was genuine, so much so that I had actually forgotten to start the maths homework I was meant to be doing!

The rambling answer that followed ended something like “….so without doubt there would always be some sort of communication between man and his creator”, but I can clearly remember that he was knocked off balance a bit by my question. He went on to prove this by seeking me out in the common room later that day and saying me something like: “That was a very interesting question you asked in there, Mr Pagano!”. It was said in such a way that it conjured up an image of him in a comfortable chair stroking a white cat as he planned to take over the known universe, and thus I was stunned to silence. He never received an answer, and to my great relief left me alone.

Even at the tender age of sixteen I was aware that the whole concept of religion simply came from a desire for an explanation of what happens to us when we die. I worked this out myself, mostly out of curiosity as to why there were several different religions in the world. It did not appear to make sense that all I had been told was for real, for if it was, why were we such a minority on the global stage? And being generally ambivalent to the written word, there was little anyone could do to convince me that just because something was considered “holy scripture” then all contained therein could be taken as, well, gospel!!!

Probably my earliest religious curiosity was piqued after the death of my Uncle Christopher when I was 8. As my grandmother sat sobbing in an armchair, I approached her with the query: “Why are you so sad, Grandma?”

“Because I’ll never see my son again!” she replied through her tears.

“But won’t you see him in heaven?”

“Oh, Jeffrey, that’s beautiful, I must tell Maura what you just said!”, and with that she went to find her daughter.

I was left wondering why she never answered my question, for it seemed pretty straightforward to me. I had been receiving one-on-one instruction from a Brother Liam from Willow Park School; he would come to our home once a week to go over the Catechism book with me. My uncle had died, but we all die, so naturally we would all one day meet in this beautiful place called "Heaven". The grown-ups’ reaction to my question planted a seed of doubt in my head that was in full bloom by the time I was making theological enquiries in Fifth Year.

Today I suppose I have finally managed to piece together something resembling a “faith”, but it is one based in the here and now rather than in the supposed afterlife. I believe our existence throws us enough obstacles and challenges that we can be getting on with without squabbling over what happens when we die. I still feel it’s important, however, for my children to receive at least a basic grounding in the Catholic faith. Maybe then they can teach me a thing or two!

© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #24 : 1000 WORDS ON…MY EX

Thursday, June 23, 2005

the cooler prize

Yeah, so I’m at this pub quiz for the University College Dublin Boat Club last night, with Conor Williams, his wife Nicola, their friend Jane, plus Ian McDonald, Conor Brennan, Declan Dunne and finally B** E******.

At one point Conor Williams (who in case I didn’t mention, was there with his wife Nicola, their friend Jane, plus Ian McDonald, Conor Brennan, Declan Dunne and finally B** E******) turns to me and says : “Hey, Jeff, I was reading your blog today, and I notice the only one of us all to get a mention was B** E******!!! What’s that about?”

At first, I was surprised he had scrutinized the blog so closely; then I realized since he was in work, all he must have been doing was scouring the pages looking for his own name!!!

So I turned to Conor Williams (who in case I didn’t mention, was there with his wife Nicola, their friend Jane, plus Ian McDonald, Conor Brennan, Declan Dunne and finally B** E******) and explained: “That one mention of B** E****** was because he is the only New York Yankees fan I know, and I wanted to rub in the fact that The Red Sox (my second fav baseball team) had just beaten the Yankees (my least fav baseball team) to win the American League title last October – I doubt he’ll want reminding of that fact, so we won’t mention it, shall we?”

“Mention what?” queried fully fledged Red Sox fan Conor Williams (who in case I didn’t mention, was there with his wife Nicola, their friend Jane, plus Ian McDonald, Conor Brennan, Declan Dunne and finally B** E******).

“Mention the fact that The Red Sox beat The Yankees last October!!!”

“Oh, yeah? Do you remember that, B** E******???”

…and you can pretty much work out how the rest of that particular conversation went from there.

So anyway, my team won the quiz, and we were offered a selection of the prizes which comprised mostly bottles of booze, but there was one prize which stood out above all the others, something that could not be consumed and thrown away and forgotten about, something which any self-disrespecting male should have but would never have the balls to actually go out and buy…



I’d like to dedicate this prize to Conor Williams, his wife Nicola, their friend Jane, plus Ian McDonald, Conor Brennan, Declan Dunne and finally B** E******, along with my heartfelt apologies for not mentioning you all on my blog – maybe some day, somehow, I can make it up to you all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

you too will be jealous

The concert is this Friday!!! WOO-HOO!!!!!!!!

Even though it is a world tour, people will come from all over to see U2’s Dublin gigs this weekend. Personally, I couldn’t care less, so long as Sandra and I get our seats in Croke Park…

Monday, June 20, 2005

so incredibly naïve

There was a time I thought
That what you wanted was what you got
And to need somebody just did not happen
Cos someone was always there

There was a time it seemed
That peace on earth wasn’t just a dream
And wars were only fought in the past
Cos these days, everybody cares

It’s hard for me to believe
How could I be so incredibly naïve?

I was convinced for sure
That nothing man-made could ever hurt you
Cos things were only ever used
For the purposes they were made for

I hope you’re sitting down right now cos
Then…I thought honesty was a virtue
And people actually gave a damn
About the jobs they got paid for

It’s hard for me to believe
How could I be so incredibly naïve?

They kept me after school
And they made me write it
A hundred times
A thousand times
A billion times
Over and over and over and over

We can’t “all just get along”

It’s hard for me to believe
How could I be so incredibly naïve?

© JL Pagano 1992

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

Sunday, June 19, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #22


Written: Thursday, 11 November 2004

Jim Calloway was really bugging the hell out of me that day, even more so than usual. I hardly knew the guy outside of football training, but when he got onto the pitch he never shut up from kickoff to full time. This would be all very well if he was team captain, but he wasn’t. On this particular day he was up to his usual antics, and from the moment the ball left the opposing goalkeeper’s boot and it was clear it was going towards me, he proceeded to bark instructions for me to play the ball up the left wing, intimating that if I didn’t that I was some sort of moron.

The textbooks would dictate that as a centre-half I was to just power a header forward, and I suppose had it been anyone else giving the advice I would have complied in the recommended direction. Perhaps for a split second I was inspired by the ghost of a former footballing great, but my instinct was instead to lean forward and meticulously cushion a soft header down to the feet of Calloway, who was about fifteen yards to my left, and if successful it would not only retain possession for my team, but would also get the message across to this prima-donna to shut his cakehole.

Considering the ball was coming from a considerable height on account of the kick being from the keeper’s hands, my planned manoeuvre was ill-advised, but I managed to execute it with clinical precision. Initially surprised by the ball heading his way, Calloway to his credit managed to compose himself, take a touch and play the ball up the left wing channel. Lord only knows what happened next, apart from his congratulating me on my skill and my team-mates deriding him for having been taught a lesson.

I was extremely proud of that achievement, definitely more so than any actual triumph in a sporting competition. At the time I was playing for Blackrock College FC, a club formed primarily for soccer playing alumni like myself. We would train at the rugby club, taking whatever training space they would allow that wasn’t being used by its own members on weekday nights.

I was invited to join the club by school coach Joe “Smokey Joe” McGinty, who doubled as manager of the alumni club. He would frequent Glennon’s on occasion, and one day he said to me as I passed the table where he was sitting “You’ll be coming out for training to the club Tuesday week aren’t you?”, quickly followed by “You’d better start jogging in your own time to get off that extra weight, Pagano”.

Smokey Joe’s one liners of feedback had always been an inspiration to me, right through school. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself”, “Keep your mind on the game” and “Yer too goddam lazy”. all stand out to me to this day, and are criticisms that are significant in arenas far more significant than the soccer pitch. This was amazing, for to look at him you would hardly be inspired to achieve peak fitness; the man was 5 foot four and earned his nickname by going through 40 fags a day, 60 on match days!

But whatever it was about him, I proceeded to follow his advice from the pub. I started jogging early one morning in what must have been late 1987. The 7am set-off time was down to my presumption that the sight of me running would send the general public into gales of laughter. I kept at it, and after time I was confident enough to go over longer distances at any time of the day. I would say that at the height of my fitness I was able to do five miles with little effort.

This helped me greatly at the club. At one stage I was easily one of the fastest players there, and was told I was eventually needed for the first team on account of my pace. For the first couple of years, I made a few appearances for the “firsts” but starred mostly for the side that played in the UCD Superleague, a team that was triumphant in 1991, winning its division comfortably and giving me my only worthwhile sporting medal.

Looking back it was clear they were grooming me for a regular spot at centre half, but of course I had other plans, to get married and travel the world and all that stuff. And so at the end of the 1991/92 season I hung up my boots, never to go back. Travelling, working long hours, being a lazy sod, and doing significant damage to my already tender lungs by my hash phase, all combined to get me where I am now.

After seeing pictures of myself from our trip to the USA this year, I was inspired to start the early morning jogs once again, but the going has been tough, with the slightest sniffle of a cold ending up in my lungs. It is extremely difficult for me now to gather the momentum to reach a fitness level whereby I could perhaps join an Over-35 team somewhere.

The weight set I purchased back in 1997 helped broaden my shoulders enough to give me some sort of symmetry in my appearance, but I would dearly love to significantly reduce my current weight of eighteen stone. Of course, this has as much to do with eating habits as it does exercise.

Having said that, I do see it ironic that rather than lamenting all the training I haven’t done over the years, I am more inclined to remember nuggets of positive achievements like that outlined above! The great manager Bill Shankly said: “Football isn’t about winning and losing, it’s much more than that!!!” There is definitely a lesson in there for me, but maybe it would take someone like Smokey Joe McGinty to come along and point it out to me to make it sink in. Just do it, Pagano!!!!
© JL Pagano 2004

Friday, June 17, 2005

the new oasis album : the truth, believe it or not

Churn out some good rock n roll tunes, record an album, go on tour, see the sights, drink some beer, smoke some weed, have some laughs, make some cash, work on churning out more good rock n roll tunes. Isn’t that the dream?

That’s what Oasis do, and more power to them for it. Here in Europe they have achieved “love em or hate em” status, mostly because of extremely poor PR advice when they had their first few albums back in the 90s, when they tried to “conquer America” way, way, too fast.

When it comes to music, I don’t care about hype. I don’t care what hotel rooms they trashed. I don’t care who they are sleeping with, who they broke up with or who’s having babies for them. I certainly don't care if they're British or Irish or American or Whatever. I care about how I react when their tunes blare out from my CD player.

Don’t Believe The Truth” seems to have most of the hallmarks of previous Oasis albums after five listens. There’s the catchy summer anthem (Lyla), there’s the slow hypnotic ballad (Let There Be Love), there’s the slightly abstract yet funny ditty (Mucky Fingers).

What’s missing, I feel, is the absolute wonder track sung by Noel Gallagher as opposed to his brother Liam, which leaves a lasting mark on your psyche the way “Sunday Morning Call” and “Little By Little” did on their last two albums since their millenium “renaissance”. I think he may be going for it with “The Importance Of Being Idle” but I’m sorry, Noel, you’re nowhere near the other two, they are all time classics in my book. I also think the main riff for “Part Of The Queue” is a little too close to the timeless Stranglers classic “Golden Brown” for my liking.

Nevertheless, I like the album, and I’d probably give it 7 out of 10, and I’d still buy their next one without hearing too many samples.

Well done, lads. Have a beer or two on me from my €12.99.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

czech your baggage

I thought anyone who has had nightmares going through airport checkpoints would have a chuckle at this story from Ananova’s Quirky files

Trouser snake!!!

A smuggler who filled his trousers with rare snakes was caught when he landed at Prague airport because customs officers spotted them wriggling.

The man had pulled his trousers tight tying them with string and tucked the legs into his socks after hiding the snakes inside.

But his appearance alerted customs officers who arrested the man when he landed in the Czech capital after a flight from Africa.

The 23-year-old man was also found to have scorpions and beetles in his luggage, local media reported.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #21



Written: December 16, 2004

THE CHICKEN SONG (written 1990)
[sung to the tune of the theme song of the TV Show “The Monkees”]

Here we come, stumblin down the street
We can’t do our finals, so we must repeat
Hey hey we’re the chickens we keep on cluckin around
And we’re too busy drinkin to get any study done
We’re just naturally lazy, we just wanna booze every day
Cos we’re the drunk generation, and we’ve got nothin to say!

At least I can say I was first. When I announced to all my friends that I was deferring my finals for a year to do them properly, I was shocked to see in the following days that one by one they were to do the same. Kevin Shanley, Barry Mullen, Jim Boland Allie & Daria (who apparently did not have last names), Sonia Roman, Abbey Black. As the rest of our class sat their finals, we sat in the bar drinking as we sang my Chicken Song.

For three years prior to my decision, I had done everything that one is expected to do in college, except of course, that small matter of actually applying myself to my studies. Having taken what was for me the extremely easy option of choosing UCD Arts as my first choice on my CAO application form, I proceeded to plod through the four-year course without giving so much as a moment’s thought to what I wanted out of the academic establishment.

Why should I have, for I seemingly had everything; a steady source of income from the pub, a steady relationship with the girlfriend, a group of friends to go drinking with, and absolutely no pressure from parents. It was brilliant. Sitting through the odd lecture and handing in the odd paper was nothing but a necessary evil in my book. For each of the four years I would be extremely diligent in my study habits, paying a visit to the College library every single day; well, for the first couple of weeks of the year, anyway.

If only I knew what possessed me to select three of the most comprehensive subjects for my First Year, those of English, Economics and Psychology. Most people opted for a softer third choice, usually Greek & Roman Civilization, which they could then drop for their final two years. But not me, I had to go for the jackpot! When asked the question of my intentions as I invariably was, I would say I wanted to do “Pure English”, with a view to eventually becoming a teacher of the subject.

I probably actually believed the teacher plan for a while, until that is I tried to get my head around the whole subject of “Old & Middle English” which had my brain cells on the verge of bursting. Rather than rise to the challenge, I found a way to avoid it. That last sentence is pretty much the story of my life! Anyway, the crowd in the Psychology class seemed cool, so I decided “Fuck it; I’ll do Pure Psych instead.”

A few weeks into Second Year, we were told by one of our tutors that all we had to do was put our names to our exams papers at the end of the year and we would pass, as seemingly the Psych department was hoping to one day become a faculty in its own right, and needed to let the numbers through to justify it. I will never know if in fact this was true, but it certainly was music to a lazy man’s ears!!!

I doubt you would find a more unlikely triumvirate of friends than those who formed “The Men’s Club”; you had Kevin Shanley, the skinny snob from Belvedere College, Barry Mullen, the charismatic bogger from Stradbally, and me, the wisecracking Yank who lived with his grandparents.

Yet found the informal club we did, and we would often hold “meetings” in the dingy hell-hole that was the UCD bar. The session would be called to order by the three of us banging our pint glasses on the table saying “here, here” in fake posh voices. We used to inspire others to “join” us, a ritual which consisted of such humiliating things as signing their name in Guinness on the table with their nose, and repeating the Men’s Club proclamation (“I hereby devote my life to the consumption of alcohol and the degradation of women”) with one’s tongue stuck behind their front teeth. Once the new member had bought the Founder Members a drink, they were instantly thrown out, of course.

I think you get the idea how Second year went, and unfortunately these habits carried themselves forward into Third year, and before I knew it, I was coming to the conclusion that I would need to defer. My fellow chickens however, actually applied themselves the extra year, with the notable exception of Barry, who was to drop out altogether. I found myself in something of a panic as the final exams loomed for the second time, as my study pattern had not improved at all in twelve months.

On the day the results were posted on the notice board, I had seen my score and found Kevin roaming the halls of the Arts block. “Well, what did ya get?” I asked him. “A 2.1!” he said proudly, “And you?” When I told him I got the exact same honours mark, he instinctively said “ah, well done”, but as each word came out I saw his face fall, with something akin to “you lucky bastard getting the same mark as me when I worked my ass off all year and you skived only to hit me for articles and information a couple of weeks before the exam!” written all over his face.

Kevin went on to do a PhD. When handed my Bachelors Degree the following November, I was firmly locked into my plan of getting married and setting off to travel the world, just like new graduates normally don’t!
© JL Pagano 2004

Next ... #22 : 1000 WORDS ON ... MY JUST DOING IT (SPORTS THAT IS!)

Monday, June 13, 2005

money's got me

Money’s got me…callin on my cellphone
…offerin a big loan
…repossessin your home

Money’s got me…maximizing profit
…pourin out the bullshit
…so I can get more of it

If you give me a whole lotta money, I wanna invest it
If it don’t make a profit I ain’t interested
When you know how it comes so easily
Cos money’s got me

If you ask me how I’m feeling I’ll tell you “Fine!”
Cos I just bought it for a mil and sold it for nine
I’ll buy you lunch but it sure as hell won’t be free
Cos money’s got me

Money’s got me…runnin in the rat race
…feedin up my fat face
…stinkin up the whole place

Money’s got me…always on the attack
…climbin over your back
…lookin alright Jack

So take your Third World countries, don’t let em burn!
Cos you can sell em all off as a going concern!
I’d let the whole world starve cos it’s plain to see
That money’s got me

I pay half of my men to kiss my butt
I pay the other half just to cover it up
I got no time for morality
Cos money’s got me

I go loopy…For the rupee
I go insane…For the yen
Well the stock exchange…It gets me deranged
I find speculating…So stimulating

Money’s got me…callin on my cellphone
…offerin a big loan
…lookin after my own

Money’s got me…
…and it’s got you too

© JL Pagano 1991

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

Sunday, June 12, 2005

drawing the line

[to see my more recent posts click the word "pampering" at the top of the page]

This morning I experienced my first true parental moral dilemma.

The kids were in the front room playing a PlayStation game. Since I consider myself to be a liberal-thinking, modern progressive type of parent, I had no problem with them playing the game “Simpsons Hit And Run”, and why not, it’s funny.

My 10-year-old daughter had been watching MTV in the kitchen, probably for the MTV Movie Awards. When she went to join her brother at the PS2, I stayed in the kitchen, and the TV stayed on.

At 10am on a Sunday morning, a new MTV cartoon called “Drawn Together” began. I was busy doing things around the kitchen but in the bits I could see I noticed it was a fusion of classic cartoon characters and reality TV. Quite clever. I noticed different old classic characters being lampooned, such as Betty Boop, Family Guy, The Little Mermaid, Pokemon, even Spongebob Squarepants is in there. It sounded good.

Then I noticed the dialogue. The Little Mermaid character was talking about a dream she was having, and in the dream she was fantasizing about french-kissing the fit black female r&b singer Foxxy Love. In the cartoon we are treated to a full enactment of said kissing.

Then later on Foxxy Love herself gives all the other characters a lesson in the birds and the bees, with a way-too-grammatically-correct demonstration provided by a couple obviously copied from Family Guy.

This show looks hilarious, but I am annoyed that is was shown early on a Sunday morning. I want to complain to someone, I want to do something about it, but I’m afraid of sounding like, well, like my grandparents! Surely it’s not unreasonable to object to this material being shown at this hour.
Is it???

movie babe dilemma

I give up. Maybe you can help me.

I can’t work out which scene was more of a turn on…

Uma Thurman’s fight with Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill Vol 2…

or THAT scene from Titanic which every guy can name the DVD chapter number from…

Any opinions???

Saturday, June 11, 2005

crowe bars (as in behind them)

Russell Crowe: Hollywood livewire

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe has been arrested in New York for allegedly assaulting a hotel employee. has the rest…

Friday, June 10, 2005

word of the day

From Reuters’ Oddly Enough files…

Whether it's "back, sack and crack," "heteroflexible," or "going commando," the dictionary is catching up.

The latest edition of the Collins English Dictionary published Thursday contains hundreds of new words that its editors say give a snapshot of how society is changing.

"Back, sack and crack" -- a beauty parlor waxing procedure made famous by English soccer captain David Beckham -- is officially defined as "(cosmetic depilation of) the back, scrotum and the area between the buttocks."

"Heteroflexible" is someone who is usually -- but not always -- heterosexual.

"Supersize," the fast food menu word for big portions, can now be both an adjective and a verb, as in "supersize me."

And to "go commando" means "to wear no underpants."

The dictionary is filled with new terms referring to what Editor-In-Chief Jeremy Butterfield called urban tribes, like "chav" and "chavette," both derogatory British slang for "a young working class person who dresses in casual sports clothes."
The related adjective is "chavtastic."

There are plenty of examples of language driven by technology. "Instant messaging" and "picture messaging" get definitions for the first time. So do "Wi-fi" and the Internet bank fraud of "phishing."

The dictionary occasionally offers helpful advice. The definition of "drink dialing" -- making a phone call while drunk, esp to someone about whom one has romantic notions -- notes that the practice is "inadvisable."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

political will song

Hey Mr President Man – why aren’t you doing all you can?
All I can see around me is people in need – what have you to say?

Hey Mr Average Man – you are responsible for what I am!
The votes that went in the ballot box were for me, by a majority!

Well maybe he has a point
As I sit and smoke this joint
Looking for someone to blame
Ignoring my own name

Is it really fair…Do I really care…
Got so much to share…And it’s going nowhere…

You gotta want it to happen
If it’s ever gonna happen
Or else every day when you wake up
You’ll find you’re still dreaming

Now as I look into the wishing well I think; “Is this eternity or is it hell?”
The wishing well is a symbol for the lives of all our children

Should I only live for today or can I make a difference in some small way?
All that I know is that I’ll never do it alone, there’s so much to be done

And it really gets me thinking
As yet another beer I’m drinking
Can we forget where we come from
What we believe and what we’ve done

And use what we know…To make mountains grow…
And new rivers flow…There’s so far to go…

You gotta want it to happen
If it’s ever gonna happen
Or else every day when you wake up
You’ll find you’re still dreaming

I can hear you say I’m a bore
That you’ve heard all these words before
But that only makes me more determined

To mean what I say…So I’ll do more than just pray…
For Revolution Day…And that’s no cliché…

You gotta want it to happen
If it’s ever gonna happen
Or else every day when you wake up
You’ll find you’re still dreaming

Dream on, dream on…

© JL Pagano 1992

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

stories worth a thousand words #20


Written : November 3, 2004

Frank Glennon wasn’t a man to wait around for an reply to anything he had said, much less listen to it if and when it came. However, on my last day working at his landmark pub in southern Dublin, I managed to made him think for a minute. After he placed IR£200 into my hand and thanked me for all my work there, I said to him; “Thank YOU very much Mr Glennon – I can tell you, I’ve learned a hell of a lot more working here than I ever did in college!” It was clear by the look in his eyes that he had to be sure it was in fact a compliment, which of course it was.

I started around September 1987, at the same time as I took up a job in Dunnes Stores in Stillorgan Shopping Centre. For two weeks before I started college, I kept the two jobs going, being a lounge boy at night, and a floor cleaner and shelf stacker by day. I could not hack the retail job at all; I should have seen that as a sign!!! And so I was left with the bar job.

I took to the lounge boy work like a duck to water. I could manage my float, remember multiple orders in my head AND merge them in such a way that the barman could get the drinks in optimum time. By the six month mark I was given the optimum shifts with all the best tips, and eventually I was asked to come in behind the counter as a part-time barman.

Glennons is a fascinating institution with a long history, one that must by now be coming up on 50 years. When I first went behind the bar the place was managed by a Mr Paddy Laroche, with his assistants Dave Kelly and Gerry Reynolds. Paddy was very “old school” and did not really gel with the staff at all. Dave and Gerry were younger and each had their own style of humour which would keep us entertained. Eventually Paddy was to leave to open his own pub, with Dave and Gerry taking over joint control between them along with son of the family John Glennon, who would be in charge of the “Willow bar”, which had a reputation for attracting the local 18-25 glitterati from the area each weekend. Most weekend nights I would work in the Willow with John.

It wasn’t long before I was able to run the Willow bar on my own for the majority of the time, with John arriving about an hour before closing to pull a few pints and rub shoulders with his peers. I was very happy working there, and made a lot of good friends along the way, many of whom I still keep in touch with.

Alphonse “Alfie” Hennessy was quite a character. Easily into his 70s, he was the head lounge boy. About 5’5” in height and wafer thin, he got sick of everyone asking if he had been a jockey! In fact by day he was chief dogsbody for no less than the Chief of the High Court, a Justice Harney. Whenever “Harry” was in the news you always saw stock RTE library footage of Alfie opening the door of a limo for him. He had the classic Dublin mentality and wit, and obviously enjoyed sharing the “craic” with all of us. He finally retired a couple of years ago to his home in Monskstown with his wife Mary, who was a classic “’er indoors” character we would never see!

I worked part-time through college, then agreed to do full-time hours for the year leading up to my wedding. To my amazement, they kept me on my hourly wage even when I was doing 40+ hours. Some weeks I’m sure I was bringing home more money that the managers, who had been joined by another son Ciaran. The four-man team still runs the pub today, over twelve years later. For two glorious hours one day when holidays and such left them short, I was actually left in charge of the whole place while Dave went for his dinner!!!

My five years working there taught me about the day-to-day running of a business, how to get on with different types of co-workers (there was the bar staff, lounge staff, kitchen staff, plus the assorted family members who would constantly turn up). Frank Glennon was the first dominant male role model I guess I ever worked with, and I afforded him much respect, even if I was prone to mimic him once or twice!!!

I also learned about the lives of the many regulars, of whom I could probably write a book in itself, and perhaps one day will. One anecdote to explain how many frequent customers the pub had : It was World Cup 90 and The Willow Lounge was the place to watch the Ireland games on the Big Screen, which John and Ciaran had spent months persuading Frank he should invest in. We would have fliers advertizing that we would open the doors at 6pm precisely for the games, and often I was the one to let what was usually quite a large queue filter in. However, so many regulars did deals with the various managers to sneak in through the kitchen, when I would open the doors the lounge would always be full!

I was sorry when I put down the shutter to the Willow Lounge for the last time. Glennons was my first environment which was not school or home, it was one where I stood on my own and established my own identity. It could be said that perhaps I established it a bit too much with the lounge girls on occasion, but that’s another story! The night I finished my pub career I went straight down to Clonmel with a bunch of lads for my stag weekend, and so my new life was about to begin.
© JL Pagano 2004

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

double or nothing

The BBC puts it like this …

Bush and Blair in Africa pledge

Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W Bush are meeting in Washington to talk about Mr Blair's relief plan for Africa.

President Bush is set to pledge $674m (£350m) to fight hunger in Ethiopia and Eritrea - a figure that aid groups say is a "drop in the ocean".

While The Washington Post leads with this …

Bush, Blair Work on Plan for African Aid

President Bush on Tuesday pledged to work with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to forgive the debt of developing African nations.

Standing alongside Blair, Bush also defended a stance on global warming that is at odds with the views of the British and many other American allies.

Now, having seen Britain and America pat themselves on the back through the media, check out this page from – in particular the section pertaining to aid and assistance - and see how far down the page the news about two of the world’s most powerful leaders discussing future support for their continent is positioned. It comes about twentieth as I look at the page right now.

The words “heard it all before” spring to mind.

Doubling aid really is the very least the G8 can do.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

if they say why? why? tell them you're a freak of nature

I'm not really inspired today, so I thought I'd re-publish a post I did back on February 1st, just before the Jackson trial began. Even after all the hype and all the celebrity witnesses and all the pyjama-wearing, my opinions have not changed all that much really.

"This is how many nose jobs I've had today"

There is no doubt in anyone’s minds that the Michael Jackson court case will be a landmark one, even if one attempts to ignore the media circus. Before any circumstantial evidence comes to light, the trial is fascinating on several different levels.

· Abuse or not abuse? This may sound like a no-brainer, since the abuse is the actual charge, but I cannot see how the actual proof of this can come from anything but his word against that of his accuser.

· Why does Michael Jackson spend so much time with children? From the Bashir documentary one is given the impression that Jackson is in firm belief that there is nothing inherently wrong with having children stay over in a grown man’s room, whether impropriety took place or not.

· Why were the kids there in the first place? This is the question that has no doubt prevented parents from taking action up to now, and it will be interesting to see how the prosecuting lawyers dodge this bullet. How can a parent allow their children to sleep in a grown man’s room over night unless (a) they were led to believe they would not sleep in his room (b) they were offered money or (c) they are even more wacko than he is?

· Michael Jackson’s lifestyle? HERE is what is really on trial. Even if the man is found not guilty as I suspect he will be, the daily goings on in his NeverLand ranch will be put on display for all to see, and I very much doubt he will be able to return to this life afterwards. The man is clearly completely out of touch with reality, and those around him who give him counsel should also be in the dock.

· The OJ factor? To what extent is celebrity and race an issue here? When I see interviews from outside the courthouse from Jackson’s fans, I think very much so, and it’s a card his legal team will exploit to the full. When you have grown human beings that actually equate someone who has creative talent with someone of moral integrity, this can be an extremely powerful card indeed.

· Paedophaeilia (or however you spell it). I think parents spend little enough time with their kids as it is, especially fathers. Cases like this make people more and more reluctant to get too close (I was afraid to use the word intimate which really proves my point) to their children. Isn’t it amazing how a tiny minority of socially misguided people can affect the actions of the vast majority of comparatively normal ones?

Monday, June 06, 2005

don’t be shy

[this story is dedicated to the memory of Lynelle Sullivan, RIP (1962-1999)]

To say I was a little bit naïve when I made my first summer trip on my own to the USA at the age of 17 would be like saying Michael Jackson is a little bit strange.

The plan for my historic rite-of-passage trek across the pond was to first visit my family’s New England contingent for four days, then head out west to San Francisco and stay with my mother for a few weeks.

My first port of call was to be Boston, Massachusetts. Out in its leafy suburbs was where my grandmother’s two elderly cousins, John and Mary Foley, were seeing out their golden years. He was a retired priest while his sister had been a spinster all her life and was doing her best despite her own frail health to take care of him. This was to be my New England base, and I was to travel on the third day up to Nashua, NH to visit my grandfather’s youngest sister Molly and her family.

And so I arrived at Logan Airport and asked a cab driver to bring me the considerable distance to the Foley’s house, since none of us were able to drive. In Ireland, at least back then, most people got to the age of about 22 before even thinking about getting behind a wheel. The Foleys for their part had all of the ability to drive but precious little of the ability to concentrate.

The cabbie must have really thought he was onto a good thing. Not only was the journey long, it was smack bang in the middle of rush hour. To pass the time, he tried to strike up a conversation. Since I was unfamiliar with the local accent, the chat was extremely short.

“So, whe-ah did ya fly from, kid?”


“Oh, really? So, what do ya think of the CAH-s in BOAAston?”

For reasons I will never know, I was sure he said cows.

“Uh, I dunno, I haven’t really seen any just yet!!!”

A few seconds later I realized why he threw me such a dirty look in the rearview and stopped talking. He said CARS dummy!!! We were in bumper-to-bumper traffic!!! I thought it best not to explain. I swear he slapped an extra tenner on the fare for my supposed sarcasm. A half-hour of quietly straining to hear the crackly sounds of a live Red Sox broadcast later, we arrived at my destination.

To say the Foleys were a little bit reclusive would be like saying I was a little bit naïve when I made my first summer trip to the USA at the age of 17.

They just sat around the house all day listening to classical music, and they didn’t even have a television!!! Oh the horror!!! I was thus forced listened to my walkman in my room for as long as I could bear, though eventually I was driven to join John Foley down in the conservatory, where I would sit watching the pendulum on his grandfather clock swing back and forth in almost perfect synch with his rocking chair as he tried in vain to convert me to militant Irish Republicanism.

After just 24 hours in the Foley house, I was desperate to escape. Though my grandfather’s nephew Chris was meant pick me up on the Saturday morning and bring me to Nashua, I called him a day earlier to see if I could stay with him the Friday night in his apartment in downtown Boston. Unfortunately he had plans so I had to endure yet one more evening of polite nodding and pendulum-watching.

Finally at lunchtime on the Saturday, Chris arrived. He was in his early 30s and was a courier by day, bass player in a local rock band by night. He wore a baseball cap backwards, had Doc Martins, black jeans, and a t-shirt bearing the words “Virgin Prunes” – I now realize that is the name of a punk rock band fronted by the brother of U2 guitarist The Edge, and that Chris was probably trying to make me somehow feel at home by wearing it.

I vividly remember the scene as I went out the Foley’s front door – behind me there was the elderly siblings; ahead of me, my much more contemporary second cousin. They observed each other with equal amounts of disbelief that their respective paths had somehow managed to cross. In a strange sort of way I thought it was kind of cool that I could bring them together, even if it was just for ten seconds of awkward small talk.

And so on the trip up to Nashua, Chris proceeded to fill me in on his family with whom I was to have dinner that evening. He told me all about his mother Molly and his two sisters, Kathy and Laura. After an hour of briefing, I noticed one very distinguishable name had been omitted.

“What about Ambrose? Will I meet him?”

I would pay very little attention when my grandparents would bang on about their respective families back home, but I could not help but notice the curious name of “Ambrose Hossenfeffer” being bandied about several times. Just so you know, although it may be altered for this story, this guy’s real name is just as intriguing.

“Oh, yeah, you’ll meet Ambrose alright” was all Chris had to say about him, which made the guy sound even more mysterious.

He was Molly’s partner – her husband walked out on her ten years before, and Ambrose seemingly came into her life shortly afterwards, and for the record he has since been a crucial rock for a family that has seen some extremely trying times. One day soon I want to fly over to Nashua myself to shake his hand personally and thank him on behalf of my grandfather for all he has done.

And so we arrived at Molly’s house at 146 ##### St, Nashua, NH, the house where my grandfather had been born. I’ve always liked to go back there; it truly is the epicenter of my family. Molly was there to greet me at the door, as was her daughter Kathy. They led me into the living room, and as soon as I rounded the corner, a loud booming voice almost knocked me over from the settee “AH SO THIS MUST BE MAURA’S KID!!! NICE TO FINALLY MEET YA!!!”

To say Ambrose was a little bit loud and eccentric would be like saying the Foleys were a little bit reclusive.

We sat around the living room waiting for the bird in the oven to cook. As Molly did the hospitality thing and asked me all about how her big brother was doing over in Ireland, Mr Hossenfeffer kept firing detailed questions at me about Ireland’s political situation, questions which Chris had to keep tactfully reminding him I was probably too young to care about, which was very true.

One other early topic of conversation was the whereabouts of Laura, Molly’s youngest daughter. She was supposed to be there that morning to help prepare for the dinner, but seemingly it was no surprise that she had not kept her word. My only memory of her was when we had stopped off in Nashua on the way over to Ireland; she would have been about 14 to my 8, and she was pretty, so I guess being a teenage boy at this stage, I was curious to see how she looked. It seemed like that was not to be.

And so the conversation flowed for about an hour, or at least it did from my hosts; I was always a “speak when spoken to” kind of kid, and no doubt they found it hard to get me talking. Maybe a beer or two would have done it, but since Ambrose was a member of the state’s House of Representatives, encouraging minors to drink would probably not look too good.

Then all of a sudden, Ambrose turned toward me and drew breath. Here comes another question about the Catholics and the Protestants, I thought. I really wish it had been.

“So are you gonna stay way over there? Why don’t you come sit over here beside me” he bellowed from beneath his thick-rimmed glasses, as he patted the seat beside him.

Silence fell over the rest of the room.

“Aw, come on, don’t be shy! Come on over here, sit down beside me, I’m sure not going to bite you for crying out loud!!!”

OK – the others all rescue me when he asks political questions but NOW you can hear a pin drop???

“Listen, this is a family conversation here, and we can’t have one with you all the way over there. Now stop being ridiculous and come over here beside me!!!”

This guy is not gonna give up, I thought, as I squirmed with absolute terror in my armchair. I think Molly said dinner was almost ready, so maybe if I went over for just a few minutes, then said I had to use the bathroom, this uncomfortable sweaty hell would be over once and for all.

With that I swallowed hard and began to rise from the chair.

“Oh, alright, Ambrose!!! For God’s sake do you have to embarrass me in front of our guest???”

And with that Laura, who had been (extremely) quietly leaning against the door directly behind me for the past fifteen or so minutes, stormed into the room and plonked herself beside her mother’s partner. And yes, she was still quite appealing to the eye, which of course only served to add to my adolescent awkwardness.

I froze half way up from my seat. Molly tried to rescue me, God bless her.

“Did you want some more 7UP there, Jeff?”


“Uh, yeah, please, do you mind?”

Unfortunately, Chris had taken full advantage of being over the legal age to have a few beers.

“Hey, you thought Ambrose was talking to you, didn’t you?”


“Yeah you did! Look, you’re totally sweating bullets!!! Oh my God that is so funny!!!”

And so the room erupted with laughter, though through all the merriment, I could just about make out the faint sounds of a Boston cab driver chuckling to himself in the distance.

To say I was a little bit embarrassed would be like saying Ambrose was a little bit loud and eccentric.

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

Sunday, June 05, 2005

itching to play

I was at a pub called “The Bleeding Horse” in downtown Dublin last night to watch the big soccer game between Ireland and Israel which ended in a disappointing 2-2 tie after the Irish had taken a two-goal lead early on.

The above picture is of Ireland’s Andy O’Brien who has just been unfairly ejected after the Israeli goalkeeper pretended to be struck in the face. I reckon what he is REALLY saying begins with “F” : “F…air enough” ? “F…or crying out loud”? “F…ootball is a wonderful game”? What do YOU think?

I wrote a full account of my view of the game on my sports blog.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

a higher love

First wedding on Mount Everest

A Nepalese couple have become the first in the world to wed on top of Mount Everest.

Moni Mulepati married Pem Dorje Sherpa after reaching the summit from the Nepal side reports Xinhua.

The wedding was a surprise to the couple's families.

The 24-year old woman's father said: "This is a surprise for us as we did not have even the slightest hint about it."

stories worth a thousand words #19



Written: December 13, 2004

“And of course back on Earth, we ended poverty way back in the 23rd century!!!”

It was originally my idea to do some research on the internet to find out which episode of the TV show “Star Trek – The Next Generation” the above quote came from. Then I realized that if I were to provide the series, episode number and title it may be assumed that in fact I knew it all along, which would make me appear to be an incredible geek, which in turn would totally contradict the whole point of this chapter!

What I wish to do here is to dispel the myth that in order to be a fan of “science fiction”, and the Star Trek phenomenon in particular, you have to be some kind of “nerd” or whatever similar names are roaming the halls of American high schools these days.

Of course several fans of the show don’t help me in my quest by attending conventions, dressing up in the various aliens’ costumes, and even taking university courses in Klingon! I have never, nor will I ever, get involved to such a degree; instead I want to illustrate what I consider to be the real objectives of the various versions of the concept. Though I don’t know too much about the original creator of Star Trek, the late Gene Roddenberry, having watched most of the stories that were spawned from his vision it is clear to see what he was going for.

Imagine all that plagues the human race today, or at least all that which we cause ourselves; greed, war, injustice, corruption, you get the idea. Then try to picture a time in the future when we somehow manage to overcome these failings and actually discover a means by which we can co-exist peacefully on the planet together. Having finally evolved socially to catch up with our advances in technology, we then discover the ability to travel huge distances of outer space at amazing speeds, and endeavour to go and “seek and discover new civilizations, to boldly go….etc etc” you know the rest!

Of COURSE it’s all incredible, and that is why we call it science FICTION. All the stuff that makes so many people scoff at Star Trek, the costumes, the pointy ears, the weird names for alien beings, is merely elaborate window dressing; Star Trek is nothing more than a hopeful interpretation of how our future may unfold. Having successfully developed as a race ourselves, we are then supposedly able to move on and try to take it to the next level and establish relationships with other races in the universe. I suppose you could argue that perhaps it is a satire of The United States and how she can interact as a nation with those around her, but I won’t go any further down THAT road!

When you go on to examine the various alien races created by the writers over the years, you find they mostly show character traits that hinder us today. The Klingons, Romulans and Cardassians are war-loving empire-building peoples, The Vulcans are reliant on logic to the point of obsession, The Ferengi are unscrupulous opportunists. Possibly the greatest enemy every created by the show, The Borg were in my opinion chosen to represent the corporate world which still seems to be taking over the world today, and against whom resistance really does appear to be futile!

Now of COURSE you can have a laugh at the show on many levels. In every episode, they beam down to a planet with about five people, one of whom is not a regular on the show and is clearly travelling to his death. Also, you can categorize various episodes by the romantic partner that for the first few scenes is obviously being lined up for a particular principal; many a time I have shouted “Ah! Worf Nookie Alert!” five minutes into a show! In the original series, the funniest moments happen when Kirk makes some quirky comment after Bones and Spock have locked horns right at the end. These one-liners are so not funny they become funny!

I did watch an episode this evening to prepare for writing this chapter, and it was from The Next Generation and was entitled “The Enemy”; it perfectly proved my point. Lieutenant Worf, a Klingon and a Starfleet Officer aboard the Enterprise, is faced with a moral dilemma when he discovers he is the only person able to save a Romulan soldier they saved from a planet with a hostile atmosphere; a decision that was extremely difficult as the soldier’s people had killed the Klingon’s parents in the past.

You would expect him to do the right thing in the end and donate his blood, but he doesn’t, nor does his Captain order him to, and the soldier actually dies. The death nearly starts a war between The Federation and The Romulan Empire, but with some clever negotiating tactics borrowed from the poker table, Captain Jean-Luc Picard manages to save the day. I took the moral of the story to be something I actually firmly believe, that for as long you call someone your enemy, they will be.
Another attraction for me must be that according to the show, the centre of the Starfleet universe is based in San Francisco of all places! I take this to mean that either Rodenberry himself hailed from the Bay Area, or he at least recognised the open-minded nature of people living there enough to imagine that it could come to represent his optimistic utopian view of the future.

The writers could easily be accused of overkill, with five, yes FIVE different shows coming from the genre. No doubt it will go on for years to come and for future generations to savour, but wouldn’t be ironic if it continued purely to service the desire to generate immense wealth and move us further away from the Roddenberry dream as outlined by Captain Picard’s quote back at the beginning!!!

© JL Pagano 2004

Next : #20, 1000 WORDS ON...WORKING IN THE PUB

Friday, June 03, 2005

"the real world"

Take seven talented twenty-somethings
And make sure they don’t want for nothing
Buy them a beautiful house in the sun
With no shortage of food, no shortage of fun
Attract advertizers galore and call it “The Real World”

Make sure they’re all photogenic
With boys like Adonis and girls Hellenic
Just try not to notice the camera’s glare
Try to be normal, try not to stare
What else could be closer to “The Real World”?

Take a look at me, Mom
I’m here on MTV, Mom
I’m so much larger than life
Here in “The Real World”

Dealing with our situations
And ironing out our complications
You’ve got nothing to fear if you don’t have a friend
Cos I know we can sort it all out in the end
It’s the perfect simulation of “The Real World”

Take a look at me, Mom
I’m here on MTV, Mom
I’m so much larger than life
Here in “The Real World”

And just in case you didn’t know
Every minute of this great show
Has been brought to you by Pepsi
Here in “The Real World”

© JL Pagano 1993

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

Thursday, June 02, 2005

twas only a matter of time…

Shaggy III > Buffalo

First, I had to ponder the whole notion of awarding a prize known as a “Shaggy” to another male, for fear that it may contain some trace elements of homo-eroticism.

Then, I had to ponder the whole notion of that last sentence, for fear that it may contain some trace elements of homo-phobia.

Finally, having deemed myself to be clean on both counts, I can now get on with the task at hand, which is presenting The Third Shagadelic Contribution To Blogland Award to the mighty Buffalo over at “Buffalo’s Path”.

That I have chosen the excellent post “Bangkok” is not particularly significant; I would grant the award to the entire blog only the rules don’t allow it; I know I came up with them, but that’s beside the point…

Buffalo’s natural ability to put a story on paper (screen?) grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drops you right into the thick of the action. With the minimum of adjectives and descriptive terms you are treated to all the sights, sounds and smells of a given situation. It won’t take you long to work out after scouring his blog that in conjunction with his considerable talent he has a seemingly endless well of experiences from which to draw jaw-dropping material.

While you may not necessarily agree with his viewpoint, you are left in no doubt what it is, and you certainly do not regret allowing him to share it with you. He also has the honorable quality of being unafraid to broach any topic you care to float in his particular direction.

While I very much doubt there are many who come to my blog that have not also been to his, I strongly recommend it to those who haven’t. Take a bow, Buffalo, and keep up the excellent work.

Previous Winners :

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

II > Dol – “
Corporate Whore!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

a new message

The BBC best explains what yesterday’s announcement by Bob Geldof & co was all about, plus there is a video link with the press conference itself.

First, I will say again that it is a complete coincidence (karma maybe?) that I did a post on my experience of Live Aid one week ago today – at the time I had no idea whatsoever this statement was imminent.

This series of concerts is not about raising money. It is about raising awareness toward poverty. Many think the original Live Aid concerts were a success simply because they raised millions on the day. The real success was the legacy left to people like me who are left astounded that poverty has actually gotten worse in Africa since then. Great though the day and the sentiment were, simply putting our hands in our pockets and then turning our attention to the next headline in the news cycle wasn’t anywhere near enough.

Geldof & co aim to get their message across when the leaders of the “G8” nations [hence the Live8 name – I can hear people scratching their heads saying “How did I miss Live Aids 2 through 7???"] ; France, Germany , Italy, Japan, the UK, the USA, Canada, and Russia, gather in Edinburgh on July 2 to discuss just how rich they are and how they fully intend to stay that way, and, quite likely, how they should probably expand to “G9” and allow China to join the party.

Here is the bones of Make Poverty History’s manifesto…

“Today, the gap between the world’s rich and poor is wider than ever. Global injustices such as poverty, AIDS, malnutrition, conflict & illiteracy remain rife. To end poverty and protect the environment we need Trade Justice not Free Trade. The unpayable debts of the world’s poorest countries should be cancelled in full, by fair and transparent means. Aid must also be made work more effectively for poor people.”

For me, this event is an opportunity for all those in the 18-35 [I can just about stretch it a year to include me] age bracket to show they can make a difference in politics in ways other than getting themselves arrested for anti-social behaviour and the like.

Around election time, when journalists ask “young people” what they want from their politicians, they invariably say little more than “lower tuition fees”.

Now they have a chance to say you wanna know what we want? THIS is what we want. And we know it can be done.

This time, it is not about putting your money where your mouth is.

This time, it's about putting your VOICE where your mouth is.