Monthly Archives: January 2010

Ring the Bell, Close the Book

Books are dead.

We here in the print media have decided that book-reading is over, and thus that newspapers have triumphed over yet another forum for information and entertainment that was starting to get up itself.

Journalist and former book-reader Ima Doolally says she’s amazed at how much time she used to spend reading books. “Hours and hours of my life I spent reading stuff like Jane Eyre, the Great Gatsby, Catch-22, Pride and Prejudice. I look back now and think God, what a waste of time. If I want to read something now I just look up Twitter. Look, I’ve just read that Jordan’s off to do a poo. Show me the book that will give me information like that.”

Having shown her the book as she asked (What Katy Did Next) we went and spoke to, well, another journalist. Hera Scary used to be in a book-club until someone offered to actually pay her for reading books. “Once I was getting paid for it, well, obviously I stopped doing it for free in my spare time,” she said.

Former journalists who move toward books, instead of the other way around, tend not to fare as well. The Sherlock Holmes stories were originally a series in a London paper. Conan Doyle then decided he would write them as books instead. And where is he now? Dead.

A guy who works in a bookshop agreed to talk to us on condition that we didn’t name him (he’s told his mother he’s an architect). He says that book-reading is dying out among the young. “Kids today don’t read books,” he says. “Well, apart from Harry Potter. And the Lord of the Rings. Oh, and Lemony Snicket. But that’s all. Oh, and the Twilight books. But nothing else. Oh, wait…”

Leaving him still talking we spoke to a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who was scathing about the fact that there are book awards. “They’re just a big clique, writing lovey-dovey stuff about each other,” he said, rather brilliantly I thought.

In an attempt to look as if we’d done some research and not just rung a few journalist mates we spoke to Damien Mulley, asking him did he read books. “Read books? Of course I do, ” he said. And which would he rather, to have his tonsils taken out, or be attacked by a panther? “What? Er, I’d rather have my tonsils taken out, I suppose.”

We then took what he said, and edited it for purposes of brevity.

 “Read books? Of course I do, ” he said. And which would he rather, to have his tonsils taken out, or be attacked by a panther? “What? Er, I’d rather have my tonsils taken out, I suppose.”

See? Even Mulley says books are doomed.

And perhaps it’s not surprising. Yet another person from the newspaper world (he hands out the Metro outside Tara Street station) suggests that Ireland is too small to have a book-reading public. “Like, there are millions of books out there, man,” he says. “We just don’t have enough room to build a big enough bookcase, unless we knock down Clonakilty.” 

So there you have it. Books suck, papers rock. As final proof, consider these three facts:

1. No mere author has ever risen to be a judge on Britain’s Got Talent;

2. You buy a paper every day. How often do you buy a book?

3. The greatest selling book of all time is the Bible. Yet it’s rumoured now that the publishers have been reduced to giving out free copies in hotel bedrooms. 

If the Bible’s in that much trouble, the rest of the industry had better start praying.

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Des Res, Not Overlooked

For many years we have known that a large Viking settlement existed in the Wood Quay area of Dublin, on the south bank of the River Liffey, during the 11th century. This week archaeologists have announced that, for the first time, a Viking house has been found on the Northside.

Just the one, though …

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There was great celebration in the offices of Myhut.ie (the “dot ie” didn’t mean anything, it just somehow made the name look cooler) on the day that they finally managed to shift what had become known as the “Farside house”.

The boom years of 1002 to 1008, known as the Celtic Mammoth years, had seen an explosion in property development in the Dublin area. Every Viking who had ever held a stone-headed axe now saw himself as a builder and bribed persuaded a tribal elder to vote to allow development over an ever-expanding area. Prices soared, moneylenders became rich, and housing soon covered the entire Wood Quay region right up to the banks of the river (“desirable waterside residences, throw your poo straight out your window into the Liffey”).

That was when an overambitious builder ventured over to the hitherto unexplored north bank, built a showhouse, and asked Myhut.ie to sell it. This proved to be extremely difficult. Vikings feared to venture to the Northside, believing it to be populated by wolves, bears, and drunks begging at Luas stops (in fairness, this last part was true. The Luas tram network would not come along for another thousand years, but the drunks have been there forever). Furthermore, the only building north of this showhouse was Valhalla itself, and since Norse Gods are known mainly for quaffing, making thunder, and deflowering young maidens while disguised as a swan, being the first house on their likely route was not considered a sensible option for anyone seeking a quiet life.

For months the house remained unsold, until a bright young spark in the estate agents stopped advertising it as being “north of the river”, and referred to it instead as being “in Wood Quay North”. And so it was that Hjønle Raidersson, who didn’t read the small print (for the very good reason that he couldn’t read at all), bought the house and was handed the keys to, literally, another world.

(As an interesting footnote, the area where the house was situated is still known to this day as Fib’s Borough, in honour of the white lie told in order to make the sale).

Being the only person on one side of a river with no bridges was a hard life, as poor Hjønle soon discovered. He soon grew tired of having to get out his shortboat (it was part of the equipment on his longboat, kind-of like one of the Enterprise‘s shuttlecraft) every time he need to go to the store to stock up on boar-steaks, mead and wingéd helmets. This was necessary because the store had no delivery service. In other words (wait for it), Viking Direct didn’t exist yet (sorry).

He also grew weary of having to ferry himself to and from his old local alehouse on the southside, particularly as he was now the butt of the pub jokers, who referred to him as Hjønle the Ljønely.

He had sometimes noticed a small cabin in the woods near his new home with a sign outside. The sign read “Probably the Best Lager in the World, Will One Day be on Draught here, but Until it’s Invented, Come in and Drink the Swill We Sell Now”.  One evening he ventured inside, and for the first time came face to face with the native Irish population.

They were awestruck by his Nordic fairness, he was enchanted by their ginger  flame-haired freckleness, and in time he became accepted in the pub, though still regarded as a blow-in. Thus he became the chief source of reference for both Viking and Celt alike. He told his new friends about the slagging he got from his former neighbours, and spoke in the southside store about the occasional axe-fight in his new local pub. He meant these tales affectionately, and thought he was spreading understanding between the two tribes, but in fact his tales filled each with horror about the other. The Southsiders took to referring the Northsiders as Skangørs, from the Norse word for ruffians, while the Northsiders called the Southsiders Tossers, from the Irish word for tossers. 

In time the Celtic Mammoth became the Celtic Sloth, the economy collapsed, and the southside Vikings headed off back to Sweden, which even then had a really good welfare system. To the surprise of his pubmates, Hjønle went home too, as he was fed up with the dark, depressing climate of Ireland (and remember, this guy came from a country that has six-month night-times). Native Irish folk moved into the Wood Quay area, and in time the Vikings were forgotten, and life went on as if they’d never been here.

And yet, deep in our souls, something remains …. people from all over Dublin traipse unquestioningly each weekend to Ikea, the Valhalla for the 21st century. Dubliners love Abba so much that they flock to see bands who just sing their songs and dress like them. And Southside women have an urge that they can’t explain to pretend to be blonde and to go skiing in the winter. 

And North and Southsiders still don’t like each other very much.

Retro Romance

One of the girls here in the office had a big bucket of cheap sweets in yesterday – lollipops, cola bottles, stuff like that (we may be adults in here, but we’re not grown-ups).

One of the things in it was a packet of Love Hearts.

Love Hearts are a kind of hard sweet with the texture of an Anadin tablet and the taste of talcum powder. They have a heart shape on them, with a different message on each sweet – “My Boy”, “Be My Lover” and suchlike.

I haven’t seen them for years, and was impressed to find that they’ve kept up with the times. They now have messages like “Email Me” and “Text Me”.

They don’t have “Let’s Try Living Together First”, “Let’s Get Matching Tattoos”, or “Lets’ Have A Bungee-Jump Wedding”, but it’s a start.

Dragons’ Den, No 2: Thick as a Brick

“… but it’s just Lego, Tinman.”

“No, it’s Star Wars Lego, Theo. It’s much better.”

“Why?”

“Well, because you can make stuff from Star Wars out of it. Look here’s the Millennium Falcon.”

“Cool. Does it fly?”

“Er, of course not, James, it’s made of Lego.”

“Couldn’t you just have made it out of normal Lego?”

“Yes, Duncan, but it wouldn’t have been as good. And you get the characters with this version. Look, here’s Luke Skywalker.”

“His head’s just a roundy bit of Lego with a face painted on it. It could be anyone.”

“No, it’s obvious it’s Luke. And here’s Han Solo.”

“That’s exactly the same face.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Yes, it is, they both look like Postman Pat without his glasses.”

“Well, never mind that. Look, I’ve done the robots too. Here’s R2D2 – oh, wait, sorry, that’s a Rolo that fell out of my pocket.”

“Seriously, Tinman, do you really think people will buy this rather than normal Lego?”

“Yes, I do, Peter. And other versions too. I’m working on a Harry Potter version.”

“Really. And what will HIS face look like?”

“Well, Postman Pat with his glasses, to be honest.”

“I have to say, Tinman, you have great balls.”

“Thanks, Deborah, but that’s actually a Lego Death Star.”

You’re In My Heart

My metal implant, the inspiration for my blogname, is two years old today.

(To those of you new to this annals, I mean my pacemaker. My blogname isn’t Knobring).

In some ways it all still seems so new. I still hold my left hand up to my left collar-bone when I’m talking to anyone, covering that side of my chest as if I believe that they will be able to see the outline of the pacemaker through all my clothing (and these days, in this weather, that’s a hell of a lot of clothing). I’m still surprised when things crop up that I’m specifically excluded from doing. I’ve written before about how pissed off I was when I found out that I wasn’t allowed to go water-skiing, though in hindsight I probably should have figured that out for myself.

But more recently Mrs Tin bought me a back massager as a present for our anniversary, and I was going to plough straight ahead using it without reading the instructions because, well, I’m a bloke and that’s what we do, but by chance said instructions shot out onto the floor when I pulled the massager out of the box, and as I picked them up the word ‘pacemaker’ caught my eye. With a sinking feeling I read the sheet, and sure enough my back was to to remain unmassaged. We part-mechanoids are apparently not allowed to be subjected to vibrations or juddering, which is odd because there doesn’t seem to be any ban on us travelling on a Dublin Bus.

(As a nice end to that story, for Mrs Tin anyway, she brought it back to the shop and they were reluctant at first to refund her, because they didn’t believe someone her age would have a husband with a pacemaker. She was thrilled, so at least one of us got some good out of the present).

But in most ways I’ve just got used to it all. I can drive, swim, walk alone. I was starting to get used to not going through the X-Ray machines at airports, and am looking forward to being able to afford foreign holidays again, so I can go back to not using them again (I wonder will I be allowed to go through the new body scanners with my hand held up to my collar-bone?).

By and large I’ve forgotten the pacemaker is there. But every now and then (and very, very rarely) I feel a brief sinking feeling (though a very different type to the one above) and then recover, and realise that, had it not been for my tin lodger, I’d have had another blackout.

By chance, the most recent of these was yesterday. I was sitting at a meeting when I suddenly felt a quick jolt as it turned itself on.

Perhaps it was blowing out its candles.

Simple, Really

The Government, reluctantly and under extreme pressure, is to hold an enquiry into what went wrong in the banks.

My prediction (indeed everyone’s prediction) is that they’ll spend a few million and come up with a load of generalised waffle.

I can save them that money (though they can send me some if it, if they wish). The paragraph below tells them everything they need to know.

Joe borrowed money to buy a car which he then wrote off in a crash. Though his asset is gone, he still has to repay the loan. Rich borrowed money to buy shares in Anglo Irish, which were then written off in a banking crash. His asset is gone, so he doesn’t have to repay the money.

That’s the banking culture in a nutshell. It’s better to be rich than an ordinary joe.

They’re welcome.

Five Festive Foundlings

Every year, after the Christmas decorations are safely put up into the attic, we find some that we missed. This year so far we’ve found five. there are these three, found in a plant pot:

(Yes, Santa has gigantic red balls. No wonder he says “Ho, Ho, Ho.”)

Then there’s this one, on the door between the kitchen and sitting room (the most used door in the house, in other words):

And finally, and most embarrassingly, these:

That’s our kitchen. Just out of picture on the left there’s a TV on the wall. The table below the window is where Tinson1 plays World of Warcraft 27 hours a day, and where the rest of us eat our meals. Yet we didn’t notice those lights until yesterday.

At least we remembered to take down the tree… (er, I’ll be back in a sec, just want to check….)