herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Was it for Angry Birds that the Rising was fought?

On Tuesday's Right Hook John Waters bemoaned the state of the nation and promoted his new book, Was it for this? How Ireland Lost the Plot, prompting George to ask what the leaders of 1916 would be doing if around today.

It's a fascinating concept to explore. Would McDonagh have a Netflix account? Would Clarke shop in Top Man? Would Connolly play Angry Birds on his phone? Would Pearse enjoy the vocal stylings of One Direction (his poetry suggests that he might)? Would Ceannt take a night class in Zumba down at the Community Centre? Would Mary Joseph Plunkett wear crocs?

"Probably," I can say without fear of factual contradiction. Sadly, these possibilities were ignored.

Instead, Waters suggested that they'd be ridiculed by cynical "bloggers and texters". (Personally, I suspect they'd probably be the bloggers and texters: "OMG! GPO! LOL!" I imagine Pearse texting from a Flash Mob on O'Connell Street.)

But Water's current bugbear is the unseriousness of public debate, as exemplified, I suppose, by internet-based trouble-makers and columnists like myself who make jokes of everything. He feels that contemporary culture is too shallow, economics-obsessed and too afraid of deep existential questions. He has a point.



self-interest

The problem with his argument is when asked to elaborate he can't stop looking to the past, evoking the civic-spirited, paternalistic patriotism of his father's generation and rejecting what he sees as the "cynicism, self-interest ... detachment and alienation" of modern Ireland.

While it's easy to attack such rose-tinted nostalgia (all you have to do is mention institutional abuse and repression, as Waters observes himself), and while I don't think contemporary society is nearly as shallow and vapid as he suggests, he has a point when he says that believing in something is better than fashionable cynicism. And you can't fault the man's passion and eloquence.

"Every sentence we speak falls apart in our mouth because of the sense of irony and knowingness we have about everything," he lamented, and it did hit a nerve. Sadly it was far too long a sentence to text or tweet.

You could, however, have inscribed it on a van. This week's Curious Ear documentary was Joyce not Jedward, the tale of Ged Walsh -- a painter and decorator who has plastered randomly irreverent lines from James Joyce and Flann O'Brien all over his metallic grey Fiat in lieu of a company logo or contact information.

"Kingstown Pier is a disappointed bridge" reads one line. "KMRIA" reads another (it stands for "Kiss my royal Irish arse" as fans of Ulysses will be aware). Ged, an inspiring chap, discussed how literature and history had been "taken over by the academics" and told Ronan Kelly as he worked (you could hear him painting away), about his love of good writing. Why had he never pursued a literary career himself?

"Because I needed to earn a living and I didn't have the confidence really to trust my pen, so I trusted a brush instead."

What does he think about as he works? He chuckled. "What's this fella doing with a microphone beside me?"



mercenary

Of course, vans aren't the only thing emblazoned with logos in this mercenary era. According to reporter Kieran Cuddihy on Newstalk Breakfast, specially branded Olympic condoms are to be distributed to the 10,500 athletes coming to London for the games in July.

"Faster, better, stronger!" boasts the packaging, although "faster" probably isn't a great boast in the context.

How many are they distributing? Kieran asked the programme's hosts, and Shane Coleman and Chris Donoghue endeavoured to guess. "How long are they there for? Nineteen days of the competition," mused Chris. I fancy I heard Shane in the background consulting a calculator, before Chris hazarded: "One each?"

(This was a sweet suggestion; a more bullishly macho presenter would have gone with "19 ... A DAY!").

In fact, taken as a whole, 150,000 condoms were to be distributed, which is roughly 15 per athlete. In contrast, 14 condoms were given to each competitor in the Winter Olympics, but, as Kieran revealed, this was a miscalculation on the part of the organisers and they ran out.

"It's cold in the winter you see," said Chris knowingly.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News