Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fire at will

Good news.

The powers that be in the Irish media haven't heard about The Board's tyre-iron wielding rampages through the wild streets of Ballycummin, and have chosen to nominate him in the 2009 National Media Awards.

He's up against Miguel Delaney of the Sunday Tribune and Laura Noonan of the Irish Independent for the Young Journalist of the Year category.

*Sickly self-promotion bit*

He's also the only regional journo nominated in a national category, and huzzah kablah for that.

He has no chance of winning, of course, but the chance to plunder free wine from Trinity College and to represent the grubby regional media is nice all the same.

For your consideration

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Humbling beauty and nuclear war

It's quite a humbling feeling, really.

Despite all of his wit, height, rugby playing talent, rugged features and writing ability, The Board is as about as popular with Limerick's most beautiful women as a Taepodong-2 is with the boat people of the Japanese seas.

But he's a recalcitrant sort. He continues on in blind hope.

Miss Limerick 2009 was launched last night by local fashion and model leviathan Celia Holman-Lee, and The Board is pleased.
Last year he defied all of the rumour, circumstance and probability in predicting that Lydia Turley (below) would win the 2008 crown.

I think you'll agree that she's probably related to Helen of Troy.

The pressure is on, therefore, to prove that '08 wasn't just another of the haphazard flukes that The Board lives by. Who then will win The Chalkboard's second annual Miss Object of Salubrious Affection Award? Will that be followed by the far more tangible, desirable crown of Miss Limerick 2009?

Just like a border guard along the 38th parallel, The Board is fidgeting with anticipation at the battle to come.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The ravelin of Limerick

The Board knows that much of his election commentary has been based on historical analogies. With less than two weeks until voting day, he has no intention of stopping now.

Deal with it.

On June 23 1565, Fort St Elmo on Malta fell to the Ottoman Turks who had invaded the island.

For weeks the starving, wretched garrison of 100 knights and 500 soldiers lived with horrific artillery shelling and ceaseless sniper fire, but still fought back wave after wave of assaults on their tiny ramparts, inflicting nearly 4000 casualties on the enemy.

These Christian soldiers were young men, devout men, men who knew that they would die but also knew that every hour they stole and every Turk they killed would be priceless in the defence of Malta, the ravelin of Christian Europe.

They died - every last one of them - but Malta would eventually hold.
On June 6 2009, a murderous siege of another sort will come to a slightly less bloody end.

Limerick City South is the biggest of the city's electoral wards. Last year, ward three and ward four were squished together and ended up with one less seat for their trouble. Lovely.

The result? A brutal, overcrowded smog pit of a ward, with 19 candidates scrambling for seven seats and at least one sitting councillor facing a rap from the righteous boot of the people.

Who will survive? Who will stride gloriously across City Hall on the shoulders of his/her cronies? Who will demand the recount that will force the tally into the early hours, pushing The Board's colleague The Agitator and Leader of Men, who is covering City South, into a state of apoplexy?

The Board fretted so much in trying to call City East (which The Agitator dismissed as "the easiest f****** ward in the country to predict"), that he won't even contemplate guessing where City South's seven seats of magical glory will end up.

Praise be, therefore, that the Leader's shiny City/County Council election supplement is out tomorrow, free inside the main County and City editions.

The Agitator assures me he hasn't hidden behind The Board's house style of vague assumption and has instead made a hard, cold prediction.

He'd be a braver sort than me, it seems.

Revelation of the day

A perfectly executed hit is heaven on earth.

I defy anyone to watch Courtney Lawes detatch Morgan Parra from this world here and not feel all warm and fuzzy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Explosive bags of joy

Growing up in London gives a young boy a dangerously high sense of expectation.

Every cinema has to have 54 screens; every ice cream van has to have eight kinds of green syrup; every McDonald's has to have a jungle jim the size of the international space station.

The norms of the Quaint English Childhood become so assumed that when this infantile house of cards is knocked away, and a 13-year-old boy is uprooted from Ilford to Feohanagh, it can be quite the culture shock.

Jaggy-legged farmers with glass eyes wandering the cattle paths of yore aside, Ireland's greatest oddity is its dodgy theme parks.

Compared to Alton Towers, the generic Irish rollercoaster is as impressive as a Mick Flavin sortie into ensemble hip hop.

It is with tepid joy, therefore, that The Board greets the news that Funderland will be de-camping to Groody after a five-year absence from Limerick.

Is it possible to get excited by rickety bumper cars, wave after wave of barbaric neon and an overall sense of tacky inadequacy? The answer is yes. Very much so.

Unlike The Board, the skittish young people of Limerick have little frame of reference for what a proper theme park should be (i.e. good), and as such will be bags of explosive joy for the two weekends Funderland will be in Limerick. Hooray for that.

The Board, however, will remain a dismissive cynic secretly dying inside because he is too tall to go on rollercoasters anymore.

We all have our crosses to bear.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board is going to die whilst go-karting in Cork tomorrow. Oh yes.

The sins of our fathers

This is St Joseph's Industrial School in Glin, where hundreds of boys were beaten and raped by Christian Brothers between 1928 and 1966.

The heartbreaking details of Ryan Commission report, the exposure of the paltry settlement that Bertie Ahern and Michael Woods made with the religious orders in 2002, and the Government's almost apathetic stance on its possible renegotiation have left us all beyond words.

They do not see it, and neither does the Church. The Government and the religious orders will offer platitudes of sympathy and shame, all the while protecting the identity of the men and women who did this in the name of God.

Beatings, abuse, molestation. Over and over and over, until they had finally stolen the innocence of a generation.

They will consider it just another crisis to be overcome; another dent that will unsettle but not fundamentally disturb their shared, anointed sense of self.

But they still do not see it for what it is - the moment when the old identity of the Irish nation breaks forever. This report has shattered the last, quiet bonds of responsibility and affection that we owed to the Catholic Church.

They will never be repaired.

Eamonn deValera welded together who we are and what we believe when he wrote the constitution in 1937. Much like in post-Soviet Poland, the soft power of the Catholic Church was used as the invisible hand that held together a confused and uncertain young nation.

They ran our hospitals. They set up our school system. They were given moral and political authority over every community. They instilled the conservative, empathetic values that still exist in us today.

But that is all in danger of being lost.

My generation, with their college educations and left-of-centre thoughts, had been drifting from the Church for some time. All that stood in the way of a clean break was that national sense of duty; a belief that the appearance of faith had to be maintained. After all, what could we be without it?

How can anyone hold on to that now, now that we've read about how children were forced to lick faeces off of priest's shoes?

How can we be asked to believe in or trust any of these people ever again?

The answer is clear.

We won't.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Revelation of the day

Though he is the finest player this continent has ever produced, Johan Cruyff is a tit.

Obama, Harrison and duck walks

Is there a finer position in American football than linebacker?

These insanely aggressive men are the heartbeat of the game. They are brash and chatty. They find their serenity while flying through the air, parralel to the turf, moments before they wallop into a running back's spine and duck walk over his frail, twisted heap two yards back from the line of scrimmage.

Basically, they don't take any crap and don't care what you think.

Fittingly, last season's finest linebacker, Pittsburgh's James Harrison, has said that he won't be going to the White House for the Super Bowl champion's annual knee flap with the President.

His reason? He doesn't really care.

"I don't feel the need to go, actually. I don't feel like it's that big a deal to me."


He did the same in 2006 after the Steelers won Superbowl XL, turning down the opportunity to be glad handed by Mr and Mrs Dubya.

Most people, The Board included, would condense themselves into swooning heaps of plasma jelly at the thought of meeting Barack Obama.

But Harrison is unmoved. If the Steelers hadn't won the Superbowl, he said, Obama would be meeting the Arizona Cardinals instead and would be just as happy.

Harrison is cold-mindedly arrogant, apathetic and blunt. That is what makes him the best.

A refreshing piece of honesty in a world running on waffle.

P.S: This is the link to Harrison's record 100-yard return touchdown in this year's Superbowl (pictured). He is so unfit that he was getting oxygen for about 15 minutes afterward. Fantastic.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Exit Beria

After Josef Stalin died in 1953, there was a power struggle to replace him.

(Editor - Of course there was, you twat.)

True to form for a people who make most important decisions at 5.30am over vodka and cold chicken and cheese served on a hunting knife, the men who wanted to replace Stalin got a bit mischievous.

As we know, Nikita Khrushchev eventually won and was all the happier for it. One man who wasn't very happy was Lavrentiy Beria.

He wasn't happy, you see, because he was dead.

Beria was the commissariat for internal affairs who came within a whisker of taking power, but was shafted by Georgy Malenkov, who was later shafted by Khrushchev, the cutest shafter of all.

Beria was found guilty of treason by a phoney court in December 1953 and was executed by a non-phoney firing squad hours later.

The point is this - ever since he spent two days in the company of crazy Russian fishermen in northern Ontario four years ago, The Board has admired the directness of the Slavic people. When they had political rows, they threw down with bombs and ice picks and intent and the rest of us were appalled and entertained.

In Limerick city, we get donnybrooks about moving posters. Cllrs Kevin Kiely and John Ryan claim that they caught Fianna Fail candidate Joe Crowley "red handed" taking down their bunting on De North Side (DNS). Crowley is pleading his innocence. The rest of us are mildly amused. Mildly at best.

But where's the insanity? Where's the anarchism? Instead of quarrelling with your opponent about posters, why not kidnap your opponent, hoist him into a barrel of paint and tie him to a billboard?

The political statement would be far more exciting.
And the Russians would certainly approve.

Bob James and fuzzy cushions

Working as a flippant, lazy and incongruous reporter isn't exactly a road map to cool.

You're supposed to know things in this game - who said what in City Council, why are there breeze blocks where my tyres once were, why are you hitting me with a billy club. The modern newspaper is becoming as viral as Ben Chapman's re-election prospects, but you still have to keep up appearances.

Information = cool.

The same applies to music. Until recently, The Board could never claim to have a cool taste in music. The assertion in 2005 by an American girl that my CD collection was "a cry for help" stuck for quite a while.

But flapping around the Limerick Leader newsroom, dodging deadlines like so many swooping pigeons, has exposed him to a better standard of listening these past months. In the last year, his CD collection has become defined by introspection and oddity.

Bob James. Jill Scott. Marvin Gaye. Raphael Saadiq. De La Soul. Common. Ladyhawke. Friendly Fires. Miles Davis. Hell, even Gerry Beckley gets a rattle.

On The Beat may try and take credit for this. As always, he will be dismissed with a burst of four-letter expletives.

Though he does deserve credit for introducing me to Eightball's Release Party at Aubars every Friday.

The Board was there on Friday, and while he grew more inebriated by the second he found his surroundings to be more than pleasing.

Fuzzy cushions. Cosy surrounds. Cracking music. Pretty women.

It's given Friday nights a whole new relevance. It is highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

East is east

As we've mentioned before, The Board pays for his playboy lifestyle of chocolate milkshakes and Jeff Koon baroque eggs by working as a junior reporter with the Limerick Leader.

That's right. Junior.

Anyway, amid the curdling stew of local democracy that currently has this city by the malleus, The Board has been tasked with covering what goes up, on, and sideways in the four-seat Limerick city east ward.

Alas no! He wails.

But luckily it amuses him that city east is home to some of the most intriguing sorts in local politics.

The city south ward is too dense, too dry, too full of future TDs keen to keep all their bridges intact.

The problems in the city north ward are too serious to poke fun at.

But the east is the colourful, beating heart of the city.

We have the 812th Mayor, who in the early 1990s spent his nights turning on water pipes with a big wrench after the council kept turning them off during the charges row.

We have Ginger McLoughlin, the most popular man in Limerick who was once described as having the largest hip bones this side of the 38th parallel.

We have Kieran O'Hanlon, the former PD and now seemingly former Fianna Fail councillor (judging by his campaign literature) who just keeps on winning.
And then we have Buster. Noel Hannan (pictured) has many titles. Some people call him the mayor of Garryowen. Everyone calls him Buster. He doesn't put up posters. He doesn't think he needs to, because everyone knows him. He is popular and swears a lot.

Buster has his eyes on Cllr Kieran Walsh's vacant seat. He might just get it. But so could Denis McCarthy or Christy McInerney or Paddy Mason.

The outcomes and permutations and jibes and darts are too many to count.

2009 is The Board's first experience with covering local elections, and already he knows he hates them as much as Robbie Keane, The Eagles and Roy Orbison.

But if he was to pick one group of men clambering to stand for the heaving soul of Limerick that would make this whole exercise more enjoyable, it would be this lot.

Huzzah for that.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board passed his driving test on Friday with only one tick, confirming his long held belief that he is the illegitimate love child of Juan Manuel Fangio (pictured) and Herbie the Beetle.


We have to stay on message.

It is easy for all of us to get lost in the condemnation and the squinting of eyes and the boiling anger. An innocent man is gunned down on the streets of our city and it sparks a tide of fury. That much we know.

But like all tides it will roll back and everything will be as it was: the sand, the shells, the drugs and the blood.

Five thousand people marched on Sunday to show that they had had enough. That was admirable. But at the core of this is a terrible human tragedy that will stay with the Collins family forever.

Tomorrow, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern will present his new legislation for no jury Special Criminal Court trials for senior gang figures and surveillance gathering to the Cabinet. He will no doubt use the images of yesterday's march to add the urgency needed to pass these measures into law.

But between now and the day that organised crime in Limerick is brought to its knees, many more men will die.

Some will be teenagers from Lenihan Avenue not enrolled in school who ferry drugs for the wrong people and will be shot because of it.

Others may be 30-year-old family men who may or may not have slighted a Dundon or a McCarthy or will be in the wrong place at the wrong time but will have their lives taken nonetheless.

Each death will provoke fury, be it in a ripple or a current. But the opinions of us, the decent members of civil society, must be anchored on one thing more than any other - the human loss; the realisation that mothers just like our own will be scarred by grief.

That sense of mourning and loss comes from our respect for human life. It is what separates us from theses murderous criminals.

As this fight goes on and on, it will become the most powerful weapon we have.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board is aware that this feature is quickly becoming the 'New York Times article of the day' section, but he does not care.

This article is too good to ignore.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Regurgitation has a habit to set you up

What a shitehawk of a match.

I've been quiet for four days since because my head has been buried under a morose pile of pity. That and the fact that I've been getting in touch with my inner bogger while covering West Limerick for de Leader.

Though that did mean I got to write a real column about the game this week, not just the usual pithy electronic rambling that is only read by six people and a duck. Here it is, because I have no intention of repeating myself:

"We didn’t lose the Battle of Lepanto. We aren’t going to have to change our currency. If we’re honest, Croke Park on Saturday was really quite irrelevant. Leinster bent us over their knee and delivered a defeat that was almost the mirror image of Lansdowne Road in 2006, but what of it? As Munster supporters we may yet look back on this match as a key moment of catharsis, albeit one that came at the hands of our friend, the enemy.

Since Emile N’tamack lifted the first Heineken Cup in 1996, this tournament has risen to become one of the most bankable professional sports competitions in the world. The significance of that cannot be understated – rugby union is still a minority sport in Europe – and this phenomenon can largely be attributed to the money and air miles of the Munster rugby fan.

The desire behind Munster’s insatiable quest for the Holy Grail was mostly a fallacy, driven not by generations of failure and grievance but by the will of men like Mick Galwey, Anthony Foley and Declan Kidney to not lose any more. This gave the young competition a story line; a reason for Europe to keep watching. But it was always just about the rugby.

In that regard, Munster winning the tournament in 2006 marked the true end of our amateur rugby era, and we all lost something with it. Since then Munster have become a brand; a winning franchise that draws titanic support because titanic support likes winning franchises. Much like our economy, no one paused to question what it was all really about or if it was sustainable. Here and now has been a counterfeit mistress for all of us during this past decade.

Saturday was the apex of that. Genuine rugby fans in Limerick and the rest of the province spent the week beforehand rubbing their heads a bashful red as they listened to everyone else predict a Munster rout. It wasn’t silly pessimism, just an awareness of the fact that Leinster are very, very good and have every reason to grind axes and gnash teeth at the sight of a red jersey. Not many sports men and women like to be humiliated ad infinitum. Leinster were going to turn us over eventually.

But the reaction of many Munster fans to the result has given the rest of us a sharp lesson in tact. For so many of the supposed Red Army to leave before the end of the match all churlish and moody was pathetic. These people have never hesitated to share in the success of two European titles in three years, but are quick to vanish when the winning stops. But it goes beyond stadium etiquette.

Few people can honestly say that they have been happy to see Munster’s success leeched on to by vested interests. Politicians have been queuing up to ‘wish Munster every success’ and line the M7 with posters of them beaming in their red jerseys while misspelling players’ names and professing to know nothing of the sport.

Shopkeepers and accountants and solicitors have scrambled to be seen to be inside the Munster loop without knowing anything about Seamus Dennison or Donogh O’Malley or the humble, noble roots of the whole thing. These were the people who left early and wagged their tongues in disapproval on Saturday night and swore to never again pay to go watch them. Excuse me?

Of course this is the minority, and few can deny that the success of Paul O’Connell et al has put rugby balls into the hands of young boys and girls where they might not otherwise have been. Saturday was disappointing, yes, but it may provide us all with some pertinent angle and distance on Munster rugby.

The answers may be closer than we think.

After he narrowly avoided falling into the Grand Canal at 3am that morning, this column had an interesting conversation with an Old Wesley man in his late 40s who was biting into an Aprile’s chicken baguette and revelling in the glow of victory. He firmly believed that Munster’s metal was forged in defeat in Croke Park, and that this loss will provide the sense of grievance that will turn into ravaging red fury next year as they seek to re-claim their title.
He said that Leinster were walking in Munster’s pre-2006 footsteps as a perennial losers; a team fed up with have nots. He doubted Leinster will become a dominant force in European rugby, as this would most likely remain the preserve of Munster from next season. But he thinks it will be nice to win, because success should be driven by support and not the other way around.

Come May 23, every genuine Munster fan will be hoping that Leinster will become European champions. Defeat is humbling, and it was something many Munster fans were not very familiar with. If they plan on remaining Munster supporters in the future, Saturday may yet prove an important introduction."