herald

Monday 24 September 2018

Airwaves filled with fluffiness

I THINK it was R P Blackmur who once said "criticism is not a science". When he said it (and, um, if he said it) he was right, but this week I proved him wrong. Here's a summary of my revolutionary method.

I listened extra hard to Irish radio (wearing a white coat and a furrowed brow). I took copious notes. I shoved said notes into a blender and poured the resulting goo into a big scientific- looking jar. As the layers settled, the composition of the radio week became (scientifically) clear. Here's how it broke down: 31pc banal waffle about current affairs, 28pc whimsical fluff, 24pc maudlin 'human interest' stories, and 16.9pc anguished wailing about rugby. The remaining 0.1pc showed trace elements of 'stuff actually worth listening to'.

Now, you may be thinking "28pc seems a rather high percentage for whimsical fluff", or you may be thinking "I haven't had a jaffa cake in ages". Either way, you're right (well, about the high percentage at least). For as fluffy as Irish radio often is, this week it seemed considerably fluffier. I can't (as yet) prove this scientifically, but I suspect there's a relationship between the fluffiness increase and the start of Christmas-jumper-wearing season. I'll have it proven by next week.

Vexing

A significant chunk of any given week's radio fluff is, of course, provided by the Mooney show. Though on Monday it did try to answer a vexing question that's caused me more than a few sleepless nights. Namely, "why does Derek hate cotton wool so much?".

The answer, according to Dr Michael Keane (DCU), has something to do with the limbic system, and goosebumps, and... possibly woolly hats (I wasn't really paying attention).

While Dr Keane analysed Derek, Brenda Donohue was out and about, vox popping Dubliners on the things that "give them the heebie-jeebies".

One man hated knives and forks. Another couldn't bear the hideous sound of snow. Then there was the listener whose daughter had "a huge aversion to the word Cloughjordan", and the woman whose husband obsessively mixes porridge until "it's like cement". "I usually have to shout at him to 'Just eat it!'", she shrieked (via text), "he drives me insane!". And so, an item intended as harmless Monday afternoon fluff ended up revealing the (barely-suppressed) murderous rage that seething Dubliners carry around inside them.

Anything could set them off. Rubber gloves, ice-pop sticks, porridge. I'd steer well clear of them if I were you.

Speaking of hideous sounds (and radio fluffiness), Cliff Richard was the profiled guest on Wednesday's John Murray Show. Ok, sneering at Cliff may be as facile as shooting dead fish in a barrel of poison, but it's hard to resist. Someone who definitely resisted was John Murray, who sat down with Cliff to "take a sneak peak at his record collection and to listen to some of his favourite tunes".

Murray, gushingly, introduced Cliff as "simply in a league of his own", expressed mild astonishment at his fondness for Deep Purple, and sympathised with him re: the horribleness of nasty critics (Boo!). "The phrase I hated most was 'bland and predictable'", said Cliff (predictably), before chiding journalists for sarcastically dismissing his fans as "wrinklies", and reminding us that John Lennon thought he was "cool".

KILLED

"It was such a sad time when John got shot... but people are being killed all the time," Cliff gloomily, fatalistically and, somewhat, mysteriously concluded. Murray could have pushed him on this and attempted to steer the conversation away from blandness and predictability but, predictably, he didn't.

Nor did he ask Cliff to apologise, to the human race, for that time he sang Bachelor Boy during a rain delay at Wimbledon. An event so traumatic that it was years before I could a) watch tennis, b) listen to music, or c) talk to bachelors without feeling violently ill.

"Have you ever", asked Ray D'Arcy, that same morning, "been sitting at home watching the telly on a Saturday night, thinking to yourself, 'What's it like being on Winning Streak?'". The obvious responses were "No!" and "Eh?!" and "Are you mad?!", but screaming them at the radio didn't work. There followed a mind-numbing, excruciatingly in-depth, stupefyingly fluffy, 20 minute discussion of the Winning Streak experience.

Come back, Derek Mooney. All is forgiven.

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