Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Virtuosically Shambolic Dr Hugh Brady

Ever jetsetting, the Intellectual Hooligan this week found himself in Credit Crunched Dublin. The first elevator he encountered (directly outside Connolly Station) was broken.

Paninis were 8 Euros apiece.

And adorning every bin was the following (magnificently scathing) poster:

That one's going to be changing some attitudes, isn't it?

Anyhow, let's get to the meat of the anecdote, shall we?

In his journalistic fashion, the Hooligan was in Dublin to cover one momentous event.

Yes, that's right. It was the graduation address by Dr Hugh Grady, President of UCD (University College, Dublin). Some may have assumed that the Hooligan was present through personal interest – but no. He was just there for the speech.

And what a speech it was. Peppered with vertiginous silences, on the edge of which we (the audience) felt ourselves teeter precariously, hypnotised by the slow void of incomprehension into which we gazed, terrified, this was a piece of daringly post-modern oratory. The spirit of Cicero imbued with the defiantly spartan self-consciousness of Samuel Beckett.

A triumph.

There will have been philistines present in their droves (let there be no doubt) who complain:

'But it was really, really boring. And I couldn't actually follow what the hell he was talking about.'

To them I say: 'Okay. You have a point. But don't you see the bigger picture? A La Recherce Du Temps Perdu is really, really boring, too. And don't even get me started on Endgame. But that's not the thing, is it?'

For, on Wednesday 29 April, we in the grand concrete chambers of UCD bore witness to the birth of a new form of rhetorical art.

At first, its brilliance shimmered fitfully, mirage-like. Halting delivery. Gaping pauses, mid-clause. Ascending tricolons cut off in their prime. Mobius-strip sentences that turned back upon themselves in a staggeringly unexpected display of one-dimensionality ...

... Kentucky-fried chicken arguments that, when stripped of their fatty, bloated, bready coating, seem, in skeletal form, to bear no resemblance to the anatomy of the animal from which they allegedly came ...

... Halting exhortations, brandished – extended and trembling – like retractable tape-measures, ready at the merest touch to whip and slither metallically back into their sheaths.

Yes. Oh yes.

I can pinpoint the moment at which it became clear to me that this was a truly inspired piece of spoken art. It was the point at which Dr Brady uttered the following words, following on from a leaden expression that the Intellectual Hooligan (reprehensibly) neglected to note down:

'... A corny phrase, perhaps – but that's the T-shirt.'


'Ha ... That's ... [trailing off] ... that's what the T shirt is going to say.'


This, dear reader, was the searing anti-punchline anti-climax of a masterful anti-speech.

The beautifully-choreographed dredging of a blocked sewer – its majestic contrivance only perceptible when viewed from afar – the lapping tides of rising and falling effluence performing a balletic dance, contracting and expanding, sketching out a bleakly wonderful image of humanity's beautiful futility.

I fear it will be for generations yet to be born fully to recognise and celebrate the weighty literhetorical genius of Dr Hugh Brady. Yet, cataract-eyed, the Intellectual Hooligan nevertheless abases himself in tribute, able only to apprehend fleeting glimpses of his glory.

(So it is when humble man – with the foolhardiness of the prophet – raises his scarred gaze to the heavens, blasphemously daring to lock eyes with the burning sun.)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

Having seen the writing on the wall, Co-op has joined the ranks of the enlightened.

Belshazzar whiles he tasted the wine
Commanded us to bring the gold and silver vessels
That his Princes, his wives and his concubines
Might rejoice and drink therein.

After they had praised their strange gods,
The idols and the devils,
False gods who can neither see nor hear,
Called they for the timbrel and the pleasant harp
To extol the glory of the King.
Then they pledged the King before the people,
Crying, Thou, O King, art King of Kings:
O King, live for ever…

And in that same hour, as they feasted
Came forth fingers of a man's hand
And the King saw
The part of the hand that wrote.

And this was the writing that was written:
In that night was Belshazzar the King slain
And his Kingdom divided.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Paninis Look Gorgeous!

More news just in on the panini front (did you miss the first searing excoriation?)

An anonymous correspondent – fearing to be named, lest she be outed amongst her gustatorily disadvantaged acquaintances – relates a sobering anecdote. Chilled to the marrow, the Intellectual Hooligan reproduces her words, verbatim:

'I was really shocked yesterday when I was out for lunch/brunch in D----- that one of our party seemed to be impressed, in exactly the way you described, by the fact that there were paninis on the menu.
I despair.
She was all "oooh, the paninis look gorgeous" (this was at reading the menu, not seeing an actual panini).'

See? Panini-doubters, you are not alone. Rise up together and challenge this fearful status quo.

(See what I just did there?)

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Joys of a Peaceful Country Walk

What scene more idyllic than an Oxfordshire riverbank? The gentle lapping of water, the chirruping of birds, the whispering of the warm spring zephyr amidst verdant leaves.

O pastoral charm indeed!

And onto this peaceful scene wander an elderly couple, their sweet voices blending serenely with the rural soundscape:

She: 'You won' even listen to me!'

He: 'I'm listnin' to you. I'm listnin'.'

She: 'You ain't been listnin'. You don't never listen. It's what I'm talkin' about.


... You just wish I would go away, don't you?'

He: 'I never said that. I never said that. Look, I'm listnin' to you aren't I?'

She: [With great vehemence] 'You don't ever listen!

[At this point, an echoingly gigantic fart is released. The creatures of the riverbank fall silent.]

[continuing, unfazed] ... You just think about yourself. You just wish I'd go away. You ain't been listnin'!'

Friday, 17 April 2009

Piers Morgan is sh1t muncher of the month

Totally and irredeemably a sh1t muncher.
Look at his big shiny sh1t-munching plate of a face.

There's a superb article by Tanya Gold on the Guardian website.

I don't know if you've seen the video of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent already. I am not, let's say, an avid watcher of the show – so it was new to me. Have a watch, won't ya?

(I would embed the video here, but the arsemouths have disabled embedding. Because, heck, that might actually mean that more people would watch their crappy excuse for a programme. And what a tragedy that would be.)

Anyhow. Gold's article is particularly fabulous, I think, in its descriptions of the judges. She gives us the following almost novelistic gems:

'Simon Cowell, now buffed to the sheen of an ornamental pebble'

'Amanda Holden, the female judge, a woman with improbably raised eyebrows and snail trails of Botox over her perfectly smooth face'

and, also of Holden:

'Can't "ugly" people dream, you flat-packed, hair-ironed, over-plucked monstrous fool?'

Fvck on. This is good work. And that's saying nothing of the inspired description of Alan Sugar, which I'll leave you to find yourself.

... And Gold is absolutely right about the judge's responses. Especially that of Piers Morgan, who is possibly the most wretched drizzle of sh1t on the reality TV circuit (now there's a superlative for you). What a nasty, spite-shriveled little w^nker of a man. What a repulsive, morally wizened arseh0le.

Often, reality TV pundits are nasty. And often their nastiness is scripted and deliberately exaggerated for the cameras. But Morgan's is all the more appalling, being neither – but instinctive. Inbred.

Apologise for yourself

In The Loop. Out today. Should be brilliant.

And I'll tell you what else ...

While we're on the subject of desperate, lamentable mediocrity, may the Intellectual Hooligan direct your attention toward further cause for grief?

Here it comes:


Remember how I accepted that – for a brief period back in the early 90s – the panini might have been mildly sophisticated?

Well, at about the same time, I'm prepared to consider the possibility that it may've seemed even slightly zany, original or outside-the-box to incorporate the @ sign into trading names or brands.

That time is now well over.


I'm talking about creations such as


If you use the @ sign in your brand/event name in 2009, allow the Intellectual Hooligan to assure you that you look about as outside-the-box as the preserved remains of Vladimir friggin' Lenin.

Not convinced? Allow me to illustrate my argument with the following table:

Even if you do stubbornly maintain that your use of @ makes you look 'down with the kidz' and au fait with the lingo of the txt msg generation (a perspective I suggest you test by actually asking a few 'kidz' exactly how cool it makes you look) – even then, how about we consider the standpoint of a potential investor in your company.

'What? I'd invest in the stock of friggin Royal Bank of Scotland faster than I'd sink my hard-earned moolah into an organisation that considered the use of the @ sign in any way trendy. Yes indeed! Come to think of it, I'd be more likely to put my money on a leper in an extreme wrestling match.


(Such were the words of a potential investor in your company, whom we tracked down and interviewed, earlier today.)

Of course, the Intellectual Hooligan's ubernightmare is – you've guessed it – a Panini emporium called Paninis@The Park! or something equally cack-brained.

For such a hypothetical emporium – with apologies for the U turn – I can only say: bring on the friggin credit crunch.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Miserable Horror of the Panini

Ladies and gentlemen. Once I spoke to you in words lent urgency by true passion; inspired by the muse of culinary finesse. Once I spoke, o faithful friends, of the noble Battenberg.

Since then, howsoever, my blogged gustatory rhapsodies have taken a downward path.

Just as economists and stock marketeers eagerly anticipate the moment at which the recessionary plunge levels off – the point from which the only way is up – just so is it my hope (my fervent, ardent hope) that today's post marks the 'bottoming out' of this trend of culinary mediocrity.

For today, my friends, I blog of the Panini.

Now, before I start, I'd like to clear up one thing. I realise that the Italian word 'panini' simply means something along the lines of 'little bread'. And that, by this token, a great many fine dough-based entities might legitimately go by the name.

I speak not of these fine dough-based entities.

Instead, I speak of the very specific dough-based entity that has come to be denoted by the word panini here in the United Kingdom (and possibly – who knows? – further afield. International readers, do send your favourite panino snaps and help us find out.)

Here – below – is an image that may give you a flavour of the ballpark in which we're operating.

(With apologies to Panini on the Park, whose appealingly-depicted product I'm not entirely sorry never to have sampled.)

Panini: The Case Against

There was a time – remember it? – when a panino may have seemed a little bit cosmopolitan. A little bit urban. A little bit sophisticated. The conoisseur's alternative, mayhap, to a bacon sarnie. The lunchtime treat for the self-indulgent lover of luxury.

That was 1990.

Nearly two decades later, I think we may safely dispense with any faint remnant of panini glamour. Go back, in other words, to the bacon sarnies.

For a British panini, as dispensed in virtually any sandwich shop or cafe over the length and breadth of this sceptred isle, is a sad and tawdry thing.

More processed than a Ronan Keating greatest hits compilation (and, depending on your choice of filling, potentially similarly dripping with tasteless cheese – and approximately as likely to bring on a stomach ache and feelings of chronic misanthropy), it is a sorry excuse for a repast.

Show one of our Brit Paninis to an Italian chap and say 'Panino!' and you will deserve the derisive laughter with which you are met.

... And yet – a little like Swarovski or Pinot Grigio or Starbucks coffee (or Ronan Keating) – this foodstuff is somehow touted as a fine and wondrous thing. As an indication of quality; a hallmark of class (okay, so not that much like Ronan Keating, maybe). 'Oh, look, darling – they do paninis!' a wife might declare to her sagely approbatory husband (for instance) – in roughly the same tones as she might exclaim, 'Oh look – it got a Michelin star!'

But the tragedy is: nobody really likes the bloody things. I'm sure of it.

(I mean, seriously: let's look at that photo again, shall we, in case you're in danger of getting sentimental about this?)

[worth 1,000 words]

It's about time, in other words, that we wake up and smell the big potatoey slice of flavourless tomato. Take a long hard stare at the wilted, vitamin-drained 1-ply 'salad'. Come face to face with the buffalo-snot mozzarella. Wave goodbye to the effervescent, slugtrail-shimmering flipper of bubblegum-pink 'ham'.

... And kick the panini.

[Extra points to someone who actually goes out and kicks a panini. I will send a prize – really, I will – to anyone that sends me a video of genuine panini-abuse of their own making. That's a promise.]

Monday, 13 April 2009

Eastertime photography

What better pursuit for a lazy Easter Monday than amateur photography? And what better weather?

None (answer to both above questions).

So it was that the Intellectual Hooligan lensed himself up and stepped out onto the mean streets of Oxford, armed only with a camera. And I tell you, people: it's a warzone out there:

No sooner had I stepped outside than I was confronted by a miniature petrified forest on my very doorstep.

I then wandered aimlessly (aided every so often by my trusty iPhone GPS) through North Oxford. Highlights included asphalt butterfly ...

... beheaded cone ...

... stealth hexagon ...

... metal fountains ...

... and Modern Alarms ...

(Pretty modern, huh?)

At length, I had the feeling I was being watched:

... before chancing upon what may be the first allusion to genital warts on a piece of public signage.

Fittingly, my photographic exploits ended with a piece I like to entitle Yellow Futility / Shine On You Crazy Streetlamp:

You can (should you so desire) see all the photos on my Flickr page, or in the slideshow embedded below.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

The dereliction of reconciliation

I just watched Five Minutes of Heaven, via the splendid iPlayer. It's an hour-and-a-half long television film that rips away all the sentimentally-flowered wallpaper from the dilapidated ruin that is reconciliation. A word all too easily spoken; a concept all too easily extolled ... but one all too rarely examined.

The narrative is rooted in the sectarianism of Northern Ireland. Alastair Little – a naive, glamour-seeking teenager – undertakes to carry out his first killing on behalf of the Protestant UVF. 33 years later, the producers of a television documentary arrange – with an eye toward 'truth and reconciliation' – a meeting between Little and his victim's brother, Joe Griffin.

Whilst the Northern Irish setting may provide the scenario, the film's themes are clearly universal: the seductive glamour of violence, the blood feud, the hunger for revenge, the messy results of apparently straightforward actions.

All themes, it hardly needs saying, that have been explored almost to exhaustion in countless works of film, theatre and literature. What makes Five Minutes of Heaven worth watching? What does it add?

It adds a very good script, and superb acting. Liam Neeson, as former UVF gunman Little, is excellent in a difficult role that could easily veer into cliche. And the parallels between him and Griffin – the man to whom he is bound for life – are (on the whole) subtly drawn.

There's a point at which the charismatically unhinged Griffin (finely played by James Nesbitt) is shaken from his thoughts of revenge when a cameraman trips over. It's an emblematic moment: this film shows us that – time and again – elegant narrative arcs and pre-conceived actions are inevitably twisted, derailed by the mundanities of actual life, in all its shonkily unromantic unpredictability.

And it's in its realism that the film is at its best. In its careful, methodical dismantlement of the notion that this kind of thing is in any way simple or elegant or glamorous. This extends to the violence depicted onscreen, which is brilliantly powerful, in its wheezing, guttural, animalistic banality.

Sure, it's not perfect. I wasn't entirely convinced by some of the dialogue between Joe and the slightly-deus-ex-machina film runner Vika (Anamaria Marinca), and there are slips into slightly cliched territory. But they are admirably rare.

And I say again, the acting here is brilliant at times – and I found the closing scenes extraordinarily moving.

I urge you to watch Five Minutes of Heaven while you can: it won't be on iPlayer much longer. Hurry, hurry!

Related posts