herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Before Christ gets banned

George Hook often has a bee in his bonnet. Indeed, nowadays when listening to The Right Hook I picture him wearing an actual bonnet into which bees are introduced using a funnel by terrified producers in bee-keeper suits.

On Tuesday's show, for example, the bee in George's bonnet was the fact that Australian politicians were planning to change their calendars to replace Before Christ (BC) and Anno Domini (AD) with Before Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE). It was political correctness gone mad, George seemed to suggest, before wondering if "modern people" even knew what BC and AD meant.

The use of the term "modern people", suggested something I've suspected for some time: That George is not "modern".

Indeed, when a ragtag band of Homo-sapiens first crossed from Africa into Northern Europe, I suspect they found George already there, talking into a branch that looked like a microphone and giving out about the coffee.

Anyway, reporter Henry McKean was dispatched to ask George's tool-wielding, straight-backed compatriots what AD meant.

"Adam Dwyer," said one fellow, whose name was Adam Dwyer.

"The year of . . ." Henry prompted another lady.

"The dinosaurs?" she said, calling to mind that one crazy year when the dinosaurs came and went.

Later, Educate Together chief executive Paul Rowe and biochemistry professor Luke O'Neill came in (presumably dressed in bee suits) and George fastened his bonnet with glee anticipating "a row".

Sadly both men made reasonable arguments about how calendars regularly change, how diversity is a good thing, how BCE is commonly used all over the world, and how they personally didn't care much what the calendar years were called.

In short: it was an example of political correctness gone sane, and George floundered in the face of their reasonableness.

He talked about how the Presentation Brothers in 1950s Cork were exemplars of diversity much like Educate Together; the use of Xmas in America instead of Christmas, and how he missed the old money.

Ultimately, however, he had to loosen his bonnet and let the bee fly out the window. "You two have in a way shifted my view," he said. "Twenty minutes ago I would have been jumping up and down about the Aussies changing this, whereas, in fact, you can see a certain amount of sense to the idea."

"Introduce more bees to the bonnet," said a producer sternly.



songbirds

Back in the Victorian era, before the invention of MP3 players, but long after the birth of George Hook, middle-class households bought trained songbirds to whistle their favourite tunes.

On Lyric FM's Culture File (part of Classic Drive) composer and flautist Laoise O'Brien discussed the phenomenon before playing music written for 19th-century songbirds amid the sounds of real songbirds. It was lovely.

There was another similarly pleasant sonic experiment on RTE 1 on Saturday when Colette Kinsella wandered Dublin Zoo at night with Zoo employee Leo Oosterweghel.

It was a nice change from the usual talking heads that make up Irish radio broadcasting, though the various howls, grunts and quacks did recall a nocturnal version of Marian Finucane's Sunday panel.



authority

Marian herself returned from holidays this week and reasserted her authority by delivering a can of whoop-ass on the craziest man in the room: Senator Ronan Mullen.

Mullen was insisting that Enda Kenny's speech challenging the Vatican was a form of character assassination, and Marian wasn't taking it.

She protested loudly and talked over him until Mullen whined: "You're becoming an interviewee not an interviewer now, in fairness!"

"Quack-quack! Howl! Grrr!" said the other panellists. They included Celia Larkin, who said ex-partner Bertie should "shut up". Sadly this suggestion came 10 years too late.

On a more elegiac note, Joseph O'Connor addressed the New York skyline in the build up to the anniversary of 9/11 on Wednesday's Drivetime.

"Even now there are moments when you look up at the sky and can't quite believe that immense absence that is somehow still a kind of presence," he said, before describing a pear tree found half-dead in the ruins of Ground Zero:

"Though the mountains may fall and be washed to the sea, some trees can never be felled."

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