Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pistols at eleven

First of all, the proper story is here. Civil servants strike, witty placards poke fun at the Taoiseach, passing motorists beep the beeps of the righteous.

But I know what you really want to know is: Did anything kick off? Public reaction to this recession of ours, particularly what we think of the public sector, has almost created a third civil war.

(The second, of course, being the fallout from Saipan and the Cork City mob's subsequent, hilarious attempts to stage violent protests in support of their man Roy 'Bean' Keane)

Needless to say, when The Board was told by El Newso Editora this morning that he was to cover the CPSU strikes in the city, he came over all giddy. Fisticuffs were a-coming, surely.

It's been ages since I saw a good ol' Donnybrook, he recounted.

Did the expected hecklers from the private sector show up? Did the reticent, violent underbelly of middle class Ireland raise up and defecate the streets of Limerick with blood?


"Shame on you", one motorist stated before scampering off to the golf course.

With hindsight, The Board should have got himself a posse to go down and start a ruckus or twelve. The Board does not feel this would have compromised his ethics.

War, after all, is a great healer.

P.S. For more practical, bloodless ideas on how to fix the country, check out this week's Leader interview with Mike McNamara of the HSI Business School, better known to most of you as dance guru Mickey Mack of Saturday nights on 2FM fame. The Board has done many an interview in his time, but Mick was certainly one of the more interesting.

Plus, he was there that night in the Stella, and he told Bono that U2 was a crap name for a band. A man ahead of his time, it seems.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Adeste Fidelis

Did a feature there a few weeks back about the new €100,000 plus bronze bells in St John's Cathedral. The Board and Leader staff photographer Adrian Butler took a trip to the top of the bell tower (well, he went up higher than I did) and he came back down with some terrific pics, some of which didn't make it in due to space.
These are the best of them, the link to the feature itself is here.
For more of Adrian's lensed wizardry, check out his Flickr page here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Weston searches (2)

More pics from Sean Curtin/Press 22.

Ballinacurra Weston searches

Cracking pics taken this morning by Sean Curtin of Press 22 of the searches in Ballinacurra Weston.
14 people currently in custody in relation to the Shane Geoghegan murder, more updates to follow. Stay with the Limerick Leader, as always.

Back in business

Beautiful, isn't it? As if Da Vinci and Duncan Edwards sat down in heaven and decided to fire together the magnificent sporting fresco of our times.
Just a quick post, have to bury the head in work so The Board will be home in time for the match.
Usually, predictions by United fans for their European Cup games are jingoistic, deranged and baseless. This one is no different.
4-1 to United, easy. That smug git Mourinho to choke on his own inflated sense of poxified self importance.

Puffing the proverbial cheeba

The Irish Times health supplement has a story today about how smoking marijuana greatly increases your risk of getting testicular cancer.


Being a well-raised prudent wimp of the highest order, The Chalkboard's college years thankfully never saw him smoke too much good granola, never mind bad granola.
But considering that it is a legal requirement for at least 75 per cent of UL business students to be stoned at any given time, he knows several men (Kerry men, in fact) who may have cause for worry.
You know who you are.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Are we really surprised?

Despite all the shouts and pointed fingers, Limerick's reputation for moyder and other violent tomfoolery just isn't going away.
The eagle-eyed men of the Limerick Blogger found this piece from the Belfast Telegraph over the weekend which claimed that a fatal stabbing in Cork City had actually taken place in Limerick.
Knowing how such things work, the journalist who wrote the story is not responsible for the inaccurate headline. This was a sub-editing error which, considering that the Telegraph is an Independent News and Media title, was most likely carried out by an 18-year-old in north western India. I assume the geography of Munster isn't too high on the syllabus out there.
In truth, this comes back to perception. The story of the Cork murder is accurately researched, but the second it lands on the web editor/sub editor's desk it immediately gets annexed by Limerick.
It was a stupid mistake, yes, but more worryingly it was a subliminal mistake. It says enough about the stigmas attached to our city that someone thinks 'stabbing', 'death' and immediately thinks 'Limerick'.
The Board doesn't claim to care about what other people think of Limerick. Living your life constantly obsessed with other people's opinions just isn't healthy. But there are people who do care, people who are affected by stereotypes, people who may not know much about Limerick but may be seeking to invest here, maybe move here with their young families.
Throwing a fact sheet of falling crime rates and a stern list of 'Dublin media' inaccuracies proved wrong at them won't do much to alter this instinctive caution.
If the local media can't change it, and the collective scorn of the citizens can't change it, what can?
This is a generation game; a problem that will only be erased once Limerick has grown into the coming decades as a thriving, safe and fair place to live and work. Today it is unequal and deprived.
No one knows how long this will take. But the building blocks are in front of us - first in the scandalously overdue extension of the city boundary, and the first phases of regeneration thereafter.
It is within our capacity to fix this, and fix it we must.

Losing their religion

The votes are in, the shiny statues are dispensed with and Ger Gilroy got thoroughly, thoroughly pissed.
A good night at the Academy Awards then, you might say. Hell, even Michael O'Connor, the one vague Limerick connection with the Oscars that we've been milking for the last few weeks, came good in the costume design category.
But The Board is not pleased. The Board is all at once quietly crestfallen and loud with apoplexy.
The one film that we held mute hopes for, Ron Howard's supremely polished Frost/Nixon, got about as much recognition for its achievements as a Canadian street cleaner.
We don't begrudge Slumdog Millionaire now. And Sean Penn's win in the Best Actor category is a refreshing sideswipe at the tedious hype that had come to surround Mickey Rourke's lukewarm performance in The Wrestler.
But really, no gong for Frank Langella? No actor has ever before captured Nixon adequately, never mind well. To humanise and create pity for the most controversial, nay, despised man of his generation was a supreme artistic achievement.
That and the fact that The Dark Knight failed to receive best directing and best picture nominations has led The Board to lose all faith in the Academy Awards as a reflection of merit.
I shall dimiss them hereafter with a short, shrill Humbug.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Looking busy

Got the Friendly Fires album at lunch.

Perfect soundtrack for some Thursday afternoon dossing.

Just don't tell my Editor

Enjoy the silence?

Stephen Jones wants rugby crowds to do away with respectful silences and boo the life out of place kickers.
Six days out of seven, Stephen Jones is a tool. Magnificent writer, of course, but still a tool.
But today, I believe he has a point.
Thomond Park, lest we forget, is the most vivid example of a ground where it is less a tradition than a legal requirement to cloak yourself in perfect stillness while a penalty kick is being taken.
For a loud-mouthed fidget such as The Board, those 90 seconds or so can be torture. But one does his duty, of course.
Respect and dignity are the traditional lifeblood of rugby, and outside of France at least those values have translated quite well into the modern professional game.
But where, exactly, is the proviso that insists the only way for a spectator to show respect is through shutting his mouth?
Any regular at Thomond Park who claims that our collective silences are borne from a high-minded, holier-than-thou dignity of the Red Army is lying through his teeth.
We stay silent because we firmly believe it'll mess with the opponent's head even more than if we yelled blue murder at him. And in most cases, we're right.
But why do we hiss at and deride any ragamuffin who lets out a yelp or whistle? Isn't he just doing the exact same thing as the rest of us, just in a different way?
Mob rule is surprisingly inflexible, it seems.
P.S - That's Stephen Tuohy taking a punt in the picture, in case you're wondering. Did he score, you ask? Considering that he plays for Old Crescent, one has his doubts.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


You see, that's more of it.

Apparently a train full of rugby players from St Munchin's College had to be abandoned near Dromkeen last night after one of the carriages filled up with smoke.


Fear not, they were all evacuated and driven to the city in safety.

This incident has only served to confirm The Chalkboard's firm belief that schools rugby players in the city have it too good.

An almost identical incident happened when the SMI junior side were driving down to Waterford for another of our recurrent hidings back in the day.

There we were, quietly listening to Diarmuid Enright's tape of two Moby songs loop over and over, when the mini bus filled up with smoke billowing from under the dash.

Were we allowed to stop, evacuate, shed a fear sissy tears and maybe ask teacher to take us back to Newcastle West in shock?


The response from the driver was "throw down the windows, t'will be grand." The bus didn't stop.

Now that's why we're tougher than you townies. Even when our modes of transport are trying to kill us, we march ever on.

If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs, etc

Clearly West Limerick men shall inherit the earth.

Everyday people

Now that's what I'm talking about.

MC Hammer, the oracle of the HW Bush years and pioneer of puff, is getting his own reality TV show.

Apparently Reverend Hammer is TV material because he is, well, ordinary.

"Here's a dad with five kids, married to the same woman for more than 23 years, living in the same place where he grew up and going to church every Sunday. He's had his ups and downs, and it's what makes him such a character you root for," says JD Roth, show producer and extra number eleven from Casino.

But how ordinary is ordinary? I would keep pushing the bar lower if I was them, doing 'day in the life' 90 minute specials about social agitators, such as angry postmen, and see what makes them so miserable.

The Chalkboard understands that Bock The Robber has been approached to star in one such episode from his weatherdome in Cratloe.

Edit - While it is already certain that this show will rival The Wire in thematic brilliance and character, I forgot to mention the key detail - its name.

The show will be called 'Hammertime'


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't tread on me

Horrible, isn't it? It looks like the border outpost of a country of ruin.
Oh, wait. It is.
Yet the Dominic Street dole office isn't just a mire of sterile floors, broken ticket machines and colourful language.
In a post-boom society where we we're all looking to beat ourselves with images of how terrible we've become, it's become something of a poster boy. It's the second busiest social welfare office in the country now; a place racked by long queues, overworked staff and general melancholy.
But we can't get enough of it.
Carl O'Brien of The Irish Times, one of more admirable writers in the Irish media, had a piece about it last Saturday.
And of course, The New York Times chose to send Landon Thomas Jr there after swilling his head with notions after a few days in Sean Dunne's company.
The Chalkboard will admit it - he has a soft spot for that red brick leviathan at the top of Cecil Street. He worked there two summers in a row as an impressionable young scamp falling in love with money all over again.
They're good people up there, despite what the stereotypes suggest. They are, after all, on the front lines of poverty, injustice and hardship.
The rest of society can, will and has bitched to high heaven about public servants.
Say what you will about senior departmental secretaries courting a Minister's ear, but the COs, SOs and EOs in the trenches in the department of social and family affairs do not deserve our scorn.
They're working a hell of a lot harder than you or I at this moment in time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tea and biscuits

Sinn Fein in da house.
The Limerick Leader is like the Dail Bar this Friday, with more political leaders wandering through than a League of Nations barn dance, circa 1919.
Gerry Adams and local election candidates Maurice Quinlivan and Tom Collopy were in this morning, chewing the proverbial fat with political stone thrower and leader of men Mike Dwane.
Green Party leader John Gormley, a man who with each passing day looks more and more like Clint Eastwood running alongside the limo in In The Line of Fire, is in later on.
Oh, the democratic ecstasy of it all.
Much has been written about Sinn Fein's as-yet failed attempt to pry open the door into the political establishment of this country.
But since their pasting in the last general election, they seem to have re-focused their tactics on grass roots strategies, rooted in the uber-local.
A combination of this, and the extension of the northside boundary, means the probability of Maurice Quinlivan taking a council seat in the city this June is almost odds-on.
A lot of it is quite showy - most notably their three-man march on Henry Street with a new crime strategy a few months back - but it seems to be working.
With Fianna Fail's polling numbers at a record low, local election candidates could do worse than eye up Sinn Fein's high-visibility strategy.
Say what you like about their policies, but they know how to play the game.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Muck, fire and rites of passage

Since Javier Bardem broke into the mainstream for murdering people with compressed air in No Country for Old Men, it's become more and more fashionable for serious professionals to talk about their rugby background.

Javier, for those who don't know, played under age rugby for Spain. Despite being exposed to the soft-top-pancake-pansy lifestyle of LA, Bardem looks like he could still do a job at number 8 for Old Crescent today. He is also, of course, currently doing the line with Penelope Cruz, a woman who is almost certainly descended from Helen of Troy.
The Chalkboard, therefore, is living on a new assumption that playing rugby as an ankle biter is the catalyst for all manner of financial swag, critical acclaim and female affection. (That The Board shares Anton Chigurh's rugged good looks, sallow skin and homicidal tendencies can only help on this front, he feels.)
This is the only explanation he can find, however, for Limerick City's obsession with schools senior cup rugby.
As you can see from the above picture taken at Wednesday's game between Ard Scoil Ris and St Munchin's College, the townies tend to get excited by these things.
As a bumpkin child of the Whest of the county, The Board understands the rugby part.
The pride, the camaraderie, the glory of victory and the agony of defeat; all this he experienced from the bench during Scoil Mhuire Agus Ide Newcastle West's gallant but fruitless push for an O'Brien Cup Munster B Schools title between 2000 and 2002.
But we never had mascots, or replica jerseys for the supporters. We didn't have face painting and inky bunting. We certainly didn't have snappy chants full of school spirit.
We travelled to games in buses that caught fire but kept on driving. We pooled together after matches to try and afford communal milkshakes at McDonald's. We stood around and spat on teacher's cars in Bandon because they were quick to give us a 30-point hiding, but weren't so quick with the ham and cheeses afterward.
In short, we played schools rugby the way it's supposed to be played - ingloriously and very very badly.
These townies should take a step back and realise that underage rugby isn't supposed to be a party. It's supposed to break your spirit a wee bit, just enough to brace you for the drabness of life as an adult.
But perhaps Javier Bardem has shown there is a better way. Perhaps we will all end up in bed with Penelope Cruz and her ilk.
The Board, as ever, lives in hope.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The real game begins

Behold - the Mid West Regional jobs task force, in fittingly boardroom-ish surrounds, pondering perhaps how they have been given as attractive a job as locating the Maltese Falcon at the bottom of the sea.

Despite the best efforts of the Tanaiste to bury any sort of progress in this region through impenetrable waffle and delays, allowing all manner of uncertainty and speculation to brew, the task force is finally here, and they're all sitting at the same table.

That that's considered progress in itself is a fairly damning indictment of how we do business in Ireland.

The group's chairman Denis Brosnan has already sought to lower expectations about what can be achieved in job creation in the next twelve months, which is fair enough.

What little credibility this project has since Mary Coughlan has had her way with it would have been totally erased had the task force started declaring that they would make Limerick the centre of the manufacturing world by Christmas.

But the problem here is bigger than the task force, or even the Government. We've come through a decade of plenty, and only on the other side do we now see that the backbone of our economy is flaccid. We, as a country, do not make anything.

We are facilitators, tertiary advisers, scaled-down think tanks; a nation of solicitors and accountants and architects who have grown to rely entirely on the notion that we would all keep building houses and selling them to each other ad infinitum.

We have no national industry, no natural resources, no reliable bunker of GNP that we can rally around and use as our fiscal spine going forward. Our rise was built solely on other people's money. Now that that's gone, we're in the tube.

We are collectively fooling ourselves if we think that appointing regional task forces alone will rectify what has happened here. What do they have to work with? What promises can any of them really be asked to give?

As the country nears 10 per cent unemployment, and the prospect that the Government might not be able to borrow enough to balance the exchequer come the end of the year increasing, a coherent re-directing of attitudes, expectations and resources is needed urgently from on high.

Just putting cloisters of well meaning businessmen and women out headfirst into an economic tundra, without guarantees that their recommendations will even be properly acted upon, is just not good enough.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Honest and Pure

Only a great city provides honest spectacle, for that is the salvation of the schizophrenic soul

- Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, 1968

Sometimes the vision of who we are is only found in another time and place.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Speed bumps and satanic verses

Ever at the forefront of stating the obvious, the Brits have realised that the whack and crack of your car hitting a speed bump is actually a source of kinetic energy.

Alas, borough councils in London have decided to try and harness this as a form of green energy, via a system of mini turbines and other scientific doo dads that The Chalkboard has neither the want nor reason to learn more about.

Living in a house full of engineers, the Board has learned to despise science and all its practitioners.

But if this pilot scheme does work, and it transpires that street lights, road signs, corner urchins and ladies of the night can be powered by this kinetic speed juice, they'll try and roll out something similar here.

Call me a cynic, but surely any sort of cost-benefit analysis will shoot this nonsense right out of the water. But that's assuming that the powers that be use common sense and reason when it comes to investing in green energy. Not a given by any means.

Don't get me wrong, I want to save the world as much as the next man. But speed bumps, and Limerick County Council by proxy, made my list just before Christmas.

Blocks of tar and brick were put down on the stretch of road between Churchill Meadows and Collins's Bar in Dooradoyle under cover of darkness, but they didn't paint them for about two days, enough time for my suspension to be almost turned completely to dust.

That these satanic instruments, which were put on this earth by the Almighty to confuse and enrage us, may be used to save the planet will too much to bear.