Thursday, February 21, 2008

A good read

One of Malcolm's "things worth fighting for", especially on a Thursday when the ex-pats need the real estate section to review their property portfolios, is the Irish Times.

It was the erstwhile journal of record for the Ascendancy and Castle Catholics. Somewhat against the odds, it has survived into the present century, liberal in tone and neutral in party politics. It has a circulation of some 120,000, a readership of double that, but an influence far greater than those numbers indicate.

Even outside the news pages, today's issue has three examples of its diversity and strength: the editorial cartoon by Martyn Turner, opposite Frank McNally maintaining the heterodoxy of An Irishman's Diary (today, a spirited piece about the slurry-spreading season), and an exemplary essay on Intelligent Design (and its fallacies).

Malcolm takes them in that order.

Turner has evolved a simulacrum for Bertie Ahern which is, at once, devastatingly destructive and curiously endearing. It is not unfair to any party to compare it to what "Vicky" (Victor Weisz) did from 1958 with Supermac:
or, with more malevolent bathos, Steve Bell to John Major and his underpants:
Turner's tawdry Paisley Junior is just as diminishing (though borrowing the 'time with my family' gybe that has been the staple Ulster fry of recent days), and shrewdly captures the fly-blown mediocrity of the man and his record.

Frank McNally dunging it

McNally's piece strikes home in many ways. It starts with a nice domestic observation:
I was driving up to Cavan last Saturday when a strange thing happened in the back of the car. Namely, my eight-year-old son put down his hand-held computer game long enough to look around him. At any other time, this would require a house fire, or equivalent emergency. But before I had time to wonder what was wrong with him, he curled his nose up in an expression of extreme disgust mand said: "Eeeuw! The smell of the countryside!"
Malcolm reckons that An Irishman's Diary (or its occasional female variety) must represent one of the more taxing tasks to be undertaken in journalism. It has to be a daily essay, or miscellany, well-written, and comes with one heck of a lot of historical baggage. To compensate, the writer is allowed considerable licence (though Kevin Myers pushed his luck).

Today, though, McNally is well up to form:
At the risk of sounding like a wine critic, I would say that, as agricultural odours go, the bouquet from pig manure is definitely the worst. Cattle dung has an almost pleasant "nose" by comparison (with hints of buttercup, daisy, and wild garlic). And of course equine effluent is the Chateau Margaux 1967 of natural fertilisers -- which is why the Dublin Horse Show has lasted longer in Ballsbridge than the old Spring Show, with its wider range of livestock.
The sub-text of such triviality is to remind us that Ireland is still rooted in the countryside and in farming. The Celtic Tiger roared through the tertiary and quaternary sectors; but very few in Ireland are more than a generation or two, or a close cousinage from the land. Dublin has spread its tentacles across at least three counties, but one needs not drive too far to be beyond the Pale, amid the mud and manure.

The best for last

So to the piece, in the science column Under the microscope, entitled Intelligent designs on God fail the test of evolution. Its author:
William Reville is associate professor of biochemistry and public awareness of science officer at UCC.
Malcolm pauses to muse on the connection back to Paisley Junior, in Rawson's cartoon. It has taken ten months for Paisley to leave his ministerial office. It should have taken as few days to be rid of a a Junior Minister within the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister at Stormont with responsibility for equality, who:
... caused outrage with his apparent assessment that homosexuality damages society. [...]

"I am, unsurprisingly, a straight person," the North Antrim MLA is quoted as saying.

"I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong," he said.

"I think that those people harm themselves and - without caring about it - harm society. That doesn't mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do."
Malcolm's credulity is constantly stretched that there is a part of the United Kingdom where divinity doctorates from a backwoods degree mills are regarded as valid, where the Deuteronomy merchants are still intent on "saving Ulster from sodomy" and Young Earthers are in the saddle, seeking to impose creationism on schools. Yet, here comes a responsible, authoritative voice from (of all places) a Branch of Cardinal Newman's "Catholic University of Ireland" demolishing the notions that it was happening at 9 am on October 3rd, 4004BC.

As much for his own use (because the cyberspacial path to Malcolm Redfellow's World Service is not one well-trodden), he appends the text of that article here, as a gross piece of plagiarism, but an essential to his sanity. Sphere: Related Content

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