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Whoa! Horse-pun virus is galloping out of control

My fellow radio listeners, I really don't wish to alarm you. I'm sure that the majority of the radio you consume, daily, is perfectly harmless. If, that is, it's 'enjoyed' in moderation and forms part of a balanced media diet. Avoid pigging out on David Harvey, or overdoing it on Liveline, and you should be fine.

Having said that, a careful analysis of this week's talk radio reveals, I fear, traces of an aggressive virus. How has this virus manifested itself? What are the symptoms? Well, until about four days ago, I'd happily managed to sail through life without hearing anyone say the words "horse burger" on national radio (or anywhere else). And this week? Nobody seemed to be saying anything else.

On Wednesday's John Murray Show, Murray asked comedian Abie Philbin Bowman what his first reaction had been upon hearing the news "that traces of horse DNA had been found in burgers up in Cavan and Monaghan". His first thought, Philbin Bowman admitted, was about "how many horse puns" he could squeeze out of the story. In this, he was, to put it mildly, not alone.


At one stage, on Tuesday, the horse- pun virus had effected an almost total takeover of both social media and Irish radio. Everywhere you looked or listened, wags were cracking wise about "stable diets" or "mane meals". About how these horse gags wouldn't be "around furlong" (wishful thinking that one, they're still going strong). It was an outbreak of punning so virulent, so unprecedented, that I can only assume there exists an innate and deep-seated human need to take the piss out of horses. You know those famous cave paintings at Lascaux and Chauvet? They're probably nothing but lame palaeolithic horse puns.

The only story that really gave "horse burgers" a run for its money (sorry, I can't help it) was the news of HMV's apparent demise (as it moved into receivership).

Though there was, understandably and rightly, much discussion of the grim prospects facing its staff, the bulk of the chatter (on Liveline and elsewhere) seemed to centre on consumer fears about the redeemability, or otherwise, of gift vouchers. On Tuesday's Lunchtime (Newstalk), Jonathan Healy shifted the focus of the conversation slightly by asking his guests whether or not the end was nigh for traditional high street music retailers. Healy described how he'd "lost hours" of his life "walking around HMV and ... the Virgin Megastore". How "more than anything else" such places and spaces offered "something to do", somewhere to go, a social hub where like-minded young people might be found.

This nostalgia-infused longing -- for a social environment in which physical media could be studied, handled and (occasionally) bought -- was widely echoed.

On Tuesday's Tubridy, for example, its young-fogeyish host was warning of the potential "depersonalisation of human interaction" that a perceived over-reliance on technology could cause.

Back on Lunchtime, Jerry Fish (who is both a musician and a record label owner) was being rather less sentimental.

After acknowledging that "people still like to hang around and talk about music" and that "a social gathering is still needed", he bluntly declared that the traditional, CD-driven retail model of HMV was "over". "I'm worried now for my kids that they'll never actually buy a CD," said Healy. "We're going to find a new way of thinking," Fish replied, citing Albert Einstein and refusing to get too wistful and misty-eyed.

"There will be brand new formats. People will always want art." Let's hope he's right.


People who retain a yen for the old formats were the focus of Monday's Culture File, with Luke Clancy popping along to meet vinyl lovers at a record fair in Whelan's, Dublin.

One of the reasons why record fairs were a "growing business", a stallholder told him, was because of "a higher and higher percentage of record shop owners who no longer had bricks and mortar premises".

Fairs were where they now sold their wares and served the niche enthusiasms of collectors. Collectors like the young woman who went home apparently happily (if somewhat apologetically) with a copy of Bruce Willis's The Return of Bruno.

It takes all sorts.