Monday, November 28, 2005

bitesize bullets



TEN TOPICS…
NO PARTICULAR ORDER…
ONE MAN’S OPINIONS…
FIFTY WORD LIMIT ON EACH…



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

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



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




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

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



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

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

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



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

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead people here include …

“jl fan clubs”*

“got to pee”

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

“elderly nod off”

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


I hope they all found what they were looking for.

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

Friday, November 25, 2005

those who can't?



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FR “FERGIE” FARLEY [subject = French]

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

FR PADDY “FART” McARDLE [Religion]

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

MR “ARCHIE” McANDREW [French – WP]

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

MR EDDIE TAYLOR [English – WP]

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

MR. “BOGMAN” BYRNE [Science]

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

MR “SAMSON” McMANUS [Irish]

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

MR. ALAN McGOVERN [Math]

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

MR. “BENJY” CARTER [English]

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, November 21, 2005

bitesize bullets



TEN TOPICS…
NO PARTICULAR ORDER…
ONE MAN’S OPINIONS…
FIFTY WORD LIMIT ON EACH…



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead googlers here include …

“84 words personality”

“hold him down strapon mistresses”

“where to get a free shag”

“heineken dartboard”

“vegetarian logos”

“stories of losing virginity on the wedding night”

"beautiful legs sexy crutches"

I hope they all found what they were looking for.

Friday, November 18, 2005

more like “shame & blame”

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

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

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

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

Effects of exposure to WP weapons

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

Exposure and inhalation of smoke

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

aw, how cuuute!!!



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

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

Oops.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, Jeff, do you have any news?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, November 14, 2005

bitesize bullets



TEN TOPICS…
NO PARTICULAR ORDER…
ONE MAN’S OPINIONS…
FIFTY WORD LIMIT ON EACH…



PROGRESS : It just goes to show how you can use your blog to motivate yourself. I said I’d shed more pounds by this week and lo and behold, another five pounds gone. Not sure what my target weight is just yet, but here’s hoping the trend will continue for now.

COMPLETION : Thank you all again for following my “1000 Words On…” series which I wrapped up last week, and best of luck to Kieran over at Wit and Prophecy who is gearing up to try something similar. I for one certainly found publishing the essays to be a rewarding experience.

FUTURE :Now my well of pre-written material is virtually dry, I plan to expand on my “Lifeslices” series for the next while, and I also suspect the impending visit of my dear mother will inspire a post or twenty! I’m hoping cutting down posts on my Irish blog will also help.

TUNES : It was time to beef up my CD collection last week and my latest additions include Franz Ferdinand’s first album, plus the latest offerings from David Gray, Gorillaz and Coldplay. I’m still coming to grips with them, but I am definitely impressed so far.

LINKS : This week’s newly discovered link shout-outs go to Caoimhe [wonderful Irish name, roughly pronounced “keeva”] and the evocatively-chosen-handle “Sex”. Thank you both. Hopefully my quality over quantity approach to posting will give me more time to sample the excellent material on my BlogRoll and beyond in return.

SCRUBS : Love the show, mostly because it’s hilarious, but sometimes they come up with a telling quote. In one episode JD says of his colleague/best friend/former lover Elliott : “… even if it breaks your heart to be 'just friends', if you really care about someone, you'll take the hit.

BACK : Arguably the best sketch comedy of the 21st century, Little Britain is back for a third series this Thursday, and I can’t wait. If you like the show you may enjoy this post I did when the whole “Prince Harry-dressed-as-Nazi” scandal was in the news.

SUDOKU : Though I’m hardly an addict, the puzzles are a novel way of passing the time, and their popularity is growing by the day. It REALLY bugs me when people say they are turned against them because they are “no good at maths”. THERE IS NO MATHS INVOLVED IN SOLVING THEM!!!!

BLAIR : Poor old Tony is in danger of leaving 10 Downing Street with a whimper rather than a bang. His party colleagues finally rallied against him last week to vote down radical new terrorist policing laws. For me it shows that even supposedly comfortable premierships can still be held democratically accountable.

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead surfers here include …

“see me shag”,
“odd looking beds”,
“married at 54 in asia”,
“when did the yankee’s win the pennant?”,
“critics of the papacy”,and
“the top ten hilarious paddy irishman jokes in the world”.

I hope they all found what they were looking for.

Friday, November 11, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #50

A WARTS 'N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON...NEW YEAR’S DAY 2005



Written: January 1, 2005

It’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
(Counting Crows)


I was fumbling through my bag for deodorant this morning when I came across half a joint leftover from my recent trip to Amsterdam with my friend John.

It was practically a gift from the gods as far as I was concerned. I had one chapter left to write in this book, and could think of no better way to get it done than to set up my laptop in my room upstairs, drawing inspiration for a fitting climax to my autobiographical work with every drag of what I intend to be my last taste of illegal substances for a long time while I attempt to take charge of my own life once and for all.

New Year’s Day is one for both reflecting on past mistakes and planning future successes, and as I have composed the various chapters I realise that this is exactly what I have been doing for myself with this project. I have found the last few months going over my actions of the last 35 plus years extremely therapeutic, slowly but surely learning virtually all that I was unwittingly setting out to teach myself.

I have learned that it is pointless to continuously punish yourself for your past mistakes. All that does is virtually guarantee that you will continue making them. My career choices up to now have been made with absolutely no foresight, yet over the last couple of years I have done nothing but see forward; now I have the desire, I have the motivation, I have the determination to contribute to society in whatever way I can.

I have learned that no matter how much I put it off, I will one day have to confront my mother and tell her exactly what I think of her. She needs to know what a comparatively easy ride she has had while first allowing her parents to take care of me when I was too young, and now sitting idly by while her son reciprocates for her parents when they are too old.

I have learned that one of the reasons I give my mother such a hard time is that practically all of her negative qualities; the laziness, the selfishness, the failure to realise her true potential, the fear of asserting herself in social situations on any level, the blatant inability to empathize with anyone on anything that doesn’t directly relate to her own life, are all qualities I am afraid are all to present in my own personal repertoire. The difference is, I know it, and am willing to do something about it.

I have learned not to be ashamed of what I believe, just because I know there are many that will oppose me. Around 200,000 people died in South-East Asia after an earthquake was closely followed by tsunami all over the region. The survivors badly need help and organization, and the county most qualified to send trained personnel, The United States of America, my nation of birth, supposedly land of the free and home of the brave, has its hands cruelly tied elsewhere. This is wrong and I will not allow my aspiration to see a world where humans can work together to be ridiculed by anyone from this day forth.

I have learned that providing for your family does not purely involve spending quality time with them, nor does it entail constantly showering them with gifts. I can’t expect to sit back and watch them grow if I’m not willing to grow myself. My priorities have to be with Sandra, RA and CJ for the time being. I will do the best I can with limited resources for my grandmother, and if she takes resentment towards me to her deathbed for this, then so be it, it is a pill I will have to swallow.

I have learned that no matter how much effort you put into getting a message across, people perceive things in their own way, and there is precious little you can do about it in the long run, so fuck it, be yourself. That’s why I tried to go with the “warts ‘n all” with these essays, since it applies to the writing as much as it does the content.

So...what can I hope for my offspring to learn from all of this? That their daddy was a lazy git? That he smoked a bit of pot in his day? That he wrote some songs? That he had a wandering eye for the ladies? Hopefully this one last story will illustrate the most important wisdom I can bestow onto my children.

I doubt you will ever meet someone more clumsy and scatterbrained than myself. I am forever dropping things, spilling things, losing things, rearranging trips because I forgot things, and much, much more. Though it is a quality I put way down my list of Things To Beat Myself Up Over, when the birth of my first child RA was imminent, the thought crossed my mind way more than once that it was very possible that I may hold my newborn daughter as if she were a bar of wet soap, and thus her life would be in great jeopardy!

From the first day I held her, there was no question of any harm coming to her, nor her brother a couple of years later. Despite all my anxiety in anticipating the unknown, when the time came, I was fine.

So kids, whatever you do, don’t you DARE be afraid to pursue your dreams based on fears of what might go wrong. You both have talent, but talent is worthless without desire. That’s the most valuable advice I can give you.

Well - that, and reminding you to always wash behind your ears.


© JL Pagano 2005

THE END

Click here for full index of all 50 chapters


Thanks to all my readers who kept coming back to read chapter after chapter. I haven't exactly run a country or climbed Everest to warrant writing an autobiography, but I really hope one day my kids will get something from these stories, and it has been great to be able to test drive them on my blog before I lock them away until they are older.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

why we blog

Shaggy VII > Shan

Sometimes, we blog because we have a humourous incident to share.

Sometimes, it’s because we feel strongly about something going on in the world and we appreciate the chance to rant without interruption.

Sometimes, it’s just because we haven’t written for a long time.

Once in a while, I come across a post which leaves me amazed at having discovered a whole new meaningful way of utilizing this wonderful creation.

I have to award the Seventh Shagadelic Contribution To Blogland Award (aka the “Shaggy”) to Shan over at “A Change Is As Good As A Rest” for her excellent account entitled Panic Stations.

When our children are ill, even if it appears trivial, it’s important for us not to look overly concerned for their sake so they don’t have worry on top of what ails them. We also want to look strong in front of the adults around us – should doctors become involved, we want to remain focused so we can give the proper information they require.

If our prayers are then answered and everything turns out ok in the end, today’s fast-paced world doesn’t always afford us the chance to take stock and deal with the anxiety and emotions we were forced to repress, especially when we are made aware of just how badly things could have gone in different circumstances.

Shan does a marvellous job of using her natural writing ability to do just that with her blog. In but a few paragraphs you get a vivid portrayal of the rollercoaster ride on which she and her family had been taken in a short space of time.

A well deserved prize indeed.


Previous Winners :

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

II > Dol – “
Corporate Whore!

III > Buffalo – “
Bangkok

IV > Mike Todd – “
Et tu, Mike?

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

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

bitesize bullets



TEN TOPICS…
NO PARTICULAR ORDER…
ONE MAN’S OPINIONS…
FIFTY WORD LIMIT ON EACH…



PROGRESS : Honeymoon period is over for my diet it seems – last week saw no weight lost, but on the plus side no weight gained. I think I probably had a beer too many over the weekend which would account for this. There will definitely be a loss next week..

MOTHER : I have made it no secret here that my mother and I have had a difference or six lately. Hopefully, the fact that she has booked flights to spend three weeks here over Christmas will give us a chance to thrash things out. I’ll keep you posted.

RIOTS : As disturbing as the pictures of the riots in poor areas of France may seem to most, they play differently in Ireland, where even during a so-called “peace process” we are desensitized to news of chaos on the streets. It does however remind us of our growing immigrant population here.

FORCE : Ah, my DVD collection finally has its missing piece – Episode III of Star Wars now fills the gap in the roman numeral sequence that has made me cringe for years. I hate the way Lucas puts the deleted scenes seperately on the DVD – why not incorporate them into the movie?

DEBATE : Congratulations to all at NBC for bravely staging a live debate on The West Wing between fictional candidates Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnie Vinick (Alan Alda). Santos’ “proud to be liberal” speech made me glad I had published my similar post that morning or you’d think I was plagarizing!

6FU : Speaking of TV drama, the last ever episode of Six Feet Under finally screened here last week.. Having already seen it (if I told you how I’d have to kill you) it was a relief for me to be able to discuss it with fellow fans of the groundbreaking show.

CLIMB : If you are into travel you have to check out Alan’s site “Random Burblings”. From what I can make out he’s a Scotsman that used to live in Ireland and who is currently trekking up and down the Himalayas, somehow managing to blog complete with snaps as he goes.

LINK : Thanks to MirrorPlebe for being the latest to link my blog, I’m happy to return the favour.

FORMAT : I plan to radically cut back my posting as of next week. You won’t notice too much difference here, though, as I have been concentrating on developing my Irish blog for the past few months. I hope to do just one post per day alternating between the two sites.

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead googlers to my blog include …

“ i want to see a good shag”,
“how to get rubber bit guards on bits”,
“little britain fancy dress”,
“how i lost my virginity stories”,and
“baileys irish coffee in the morning”.

I hope they all found what they were looking for.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #49

A WARTS 'N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON...BLEEDING HEART LIBERALS

Not the most appealing image is it?

Written: October 26, 2004

One week from today, voters in the United States of America will decide who is to lead their country for the next four years.

To my knowledge no presidential race has been as tightly contested and as clearly polarized as this one, between the incumbent George W Bush and Senator John Kerry. At time of writing it is highly likely the tally will be so close that the string of legal challenges brought up by the 2000 race will be repeated if not surpassed.

Were you to discuss current affairs with me it would not take you long to work out that my views would fall to the left of the political spectrum. Having said this, I am fascinated by the driving force behind the right’s way of thinking. Their biggest strength is their ability to unite for a common cause. If your conviction is that things should stay as they are, there is less scope for internal feuding. It’s all very well for your mind to be open to change as would befit the left, but if you all disagree on exactly what that change would be, things can get ugly real fast.

Although the taunt has never been directed specifically at me, I am always amazed with the way hard-line conservatives try to tarnish people with views similar to mine with the epithet “bleeding heart liberals” (BHLs). Through endless rhetoric they have managed to make this phrase a negative description. They will have you believe BHLs want to set free all prisoners, never go to war, let women have abortions willy-nilly, and hug all the trees. It is an extremely clever blanket term and sits permanently in a right wing debater’s back pocket for production whenever things get tough.

Let’s say, for example, a “hypothetical” president wanted to wage a war and remove from power a particular rogue leader, an action which would not only avenge his own father for failing to do so, but would also substantially reward business allies of his own party in the awarding of ensuing reconstruction contracts. Throw into the mix a vague contorted notion that perhaps this rogue leader was involved in a serious terrorist attack on the president’s nation, and you have an argument that will probably win over more than 40% of the people.

But what of the other sixty? Most of these would comprise the left, who will draw party lines and argue for the sake of arguing, picking at every aspect and attempting to portray the deception in much the same way as I have done above.

The remaining “undecideds” resemble Wimbledon Centre Court spectators as they look both ways for a cause worth voting for. At this crucial point, out comes the president’s trump card. These BHLs can’t make up their minds on what they want to do, he would say. They would have allowed the despot to stay in power while they argued, instead we got him out. And so the blanket is thrown, engulfing the entire left sufficiently for enough support to fall in with the president for him to get his work done.

But I cannot understand how he can justify the use of the term “Bleeding Heart Liberals” as a negative. The current president (I guess I need no longer call him hypothetical) more than any other has referred to his own religious background in his speeches, and puts himself forward as a clear poster child for the religious right. The Christian religious right. Followers of Christ. That’s Jesus Christ, isn’t it?

Now my interpretation of the bible may be a little rusty, but I was always under the impression that Jesus Christ was all about forgiving sinners, feeding the poor, and camels passing through needles before rich men got into heaven? Didn’t he dedicate his life to spreading the word that however dull and dreary people’s lives were, there was another way which could lead them to salvation? Weren’t his death and subsequent resurrection sacrifices for all mankind, or was I missing something? Given all of this, can I be so bold as to make the statement that perhaps Jesus Christ was the greatest Bleeding Heart Liberal that ever lived? If so, what is wrong with trying to do the same?

Now before you think I’m going to go around attempting to heal lepers or making promises of banquets on hillsides armed only with a sliced pan and a couple of kippers, be sure that is NOT going to happen. My personal religious leanings are for another day’s writing, but suffice to say I would not be one for bashing bibles. I am simply trying to claim back this term as the positive reinforcing description I believe it to be.

I believe one human killing another to be wrong on ANY level. We do not understand life OR death enough to endorse this. Of course you could reel off countless justifications for me, but I find it hard to believe one would make me think of any government backed military action as anything but sanctioned murder. I see the likes of army generals as little more than overgrown boys with oversized toys which they are dying to take out of their wrappers and use. And I can’t for the life of me understand how a nation of 200 million taxpayers can stand idly by while their dollars pay for hardware to destroy a country only to pay even more dollars into the coffers of a major construction company to build it up again.

The prospect of George W Bush serving a four year term as a lame duck president scares me to my very core. I was even moved to register to vote for the first time in my 35 years. Should he be democratically elected (and we can’t be even sure of that anymore), I must bow to the will of the American people. But to his supporters I will always maintain, I’m a Bleeding Heart Liberal, and proud of it.



© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #50 – 1000 WORDS ON…NEW YEAR’S DAY, 2005 [final chapter]

Click here for full index of all 50 chapters


Saturday, November 05, 2005

while we



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!

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
Cos while we eat our fries and plump for supersize
One more hunger victim dies.

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?


© JL Pagano 1994


I am republishing these lyrics today for two reasons - first, it sets me up nicely for the essay on Bleeding Heart Liberals I'm posting tomorrow, plus the song was conceived as I sat in the family car on the way to my father-in-law's funeral on this weekend eleven years ago, as my wife sat beside me seven months pregnant with my daughter. I thus dedicate it to the memory of Christy O'Leary RIP.


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

Friday, November 04, 2005

tell us something we don't know

Here's a handy blogging tip for you all.

Should you ever enter with an arrangement with a group of friends that you meet up on the first Thursday of every month for a few sociable beverages, you are advised not to inform them that you have a blog of your own.

The reason for this, as I discovered last night, is that you find your have precious little to say for yourself.

"Yeah, so I've been on this diet, and so far I've lost..."

"Fifteen pounds! Yeah, I read that on Monday, well done!"

"Er, yeah, thanks. Well - did I tell you about Sandra's..."

"...dog? Yes, that was a shame, tell her we were asking for her."

"Of course I will! Er - so, what's new with you guys?"

Maybe next month I'll start making stuff up...

It was a good night nonetheless, by the way. It's so easy to lose touch with people I'm glad we've managed to keep this regular event going for so long.

I have also been requested to make it clear that we do NOT visit lapdancing clubs on the nights in question. The bundles of 5-euro notes we bring with us are purely for the benefit of the lounge staff in the Stillorgan Orchard who have trouble making change.
Have I said too much, B** E******?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #48

A WARTS 'N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON...MY FIANCÉE


The Unitarian Church at St Stephens Green, Dublin, where we plan to be married in August, 2006.

Written: December 5, 2004


It had only been a couple of weeks since I had made the painful move from the marital home in Clondalkin back to Booterstown.

Earlier that summer, my grandfather had been accepted for full-time care at the Royal Hospital Donnybrook, and his wife was in the midst of a two-week stint at St Vincents Hospital herself. All this meant I had a free house for the fortnight.

On the Saturday afternoon I received a call from a guy I used to work with in Champion Sports, Dillon Collins. He was a tall, good looking bloke with whom I had often gone on the pull before that summer, and the prospect of a night’s “pulling” with him seemed to be just what I needed.

Our final destination was a nightclub called “Boomerang’s”, a well known pick up place in Temple Bar. We got there late, and so knocked back a few double vodkas to get into the mood. The next memory I have is seeing this tall glamorous looking lady with short hair and clear white skin standing on her own and in an act totally out of character, I found myself walking over to her and asking her could I kiss her neck! She let me, but her friend called her from behind me and so she got away. I probably wandered off to get another double vodka and coke.

At the end of the night, I stumbled over toward the queue for the cloakroom to get my jacket. By pure coincidence, there I was standing behind the tall beauty once again, so I tried to strike up another conversation. In pure defiance, she turned to me and said; “I bet you don’t even know what my name is!”

Maybe it was adrenaline, maybe it was a desire to stick up for fellow men in the wake of an accusation that we see all women as mere sex objects, or maybe it was the fact that I was extremely inebriated, but somehow, I managed to remember what her friend had said when she called her earlier. “Sandra?” I said tentatively. Before I knew what was what I was walking her to her taxi, we were having the odd mooch and talking about ourselves and I was even cheekily asking her back to my place. She refused the invite, but did give me her number as the taxi left her home.

I had to work the next day, and I sat in my office knowing that although it was very soon, if I didn’t find the courage ring her then I never would; and also I only had a week left of the free house!!! And so while shaking like a leaf I made the call, and to my surprise she agreed to meet me the following night for what was to be first actual proper date since I was in college.

We met at The Trinity Arch Bar on Dame St, and the night went brilliantly, mostly because once again she proved herself a lady by not coming home with me. I vividly remember how good I felt the following morning; it was clear I had met someone special.

And so we started seeing each other regularly, and it was not until the fourth date that I was able to bring myself to break the news of my baggage. Her reaction of “Oh, my God!” led me to believe that we were doomed, but after reflection on her part she still wanted to go out with me, and before I knew what was happening, I was in a full blown relationship again.

The one thing about Sandra I can categorically say is that my association with her has nothing to do with being on the rebound or anything like that. It could be said that since MyX had someone in her life, all I wanted was someone in mine, but the reality was I had been with a few different women for the previous few months and had no desire to take anything further until I met Ms Curran.

So what is it about Sandra that kept me interested? She is beautiful, she makes me laugh, she has her vulnerabilities with which I can easily relate, and she genuinely loves me. One day I completely forgot that I was to collect my daughter RA from school, and MyX rang me to let me know it. That evening I was with Sandra and after having a few drinks I became overwhelmed by the image of the poor little girl sitting waiting for her Daddy, until she came through and brought me to my senses that it was a simple mistake that I would never repeat.

We moved in together for a brief time, but it only lasted a few months, with my losing my job together with a sizeable chunk of my self esteem being the principal factor. We then went through a period where we were split up, but still keeping in contact, even spending the odd night together while we were seeing other people.

It was a Saturday night in November 2003. I was in full flow of my “hash phase”, and out on a session with a crowd of people I had met from the internet chatrooms. These two Scottish net-friends were telling me who my “ideal woman” was, and seemed to be describing Sandra to a T. Around midnight, with me quite drunk, my mobile rang and sure enough it was her, a bit tipsy herself, wondering if we could get back together.

I didn’t need a second invitation. I presumed when I decided to move back in with my grandmother that I was to be a single man for a long time to come; instead I was back with Sandra and extremely happy.

Just over a year later, we are now engaged and I want my future to include her; if she isn’t my soulmate, I doubt I will ever meet one.



© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #49 – 1000 WORDS ON…BLEEDING HEART LIBERALS

Click here for full index of all 50 chapters