Friday, 31 July 2015

Jeremy Clarkson Is An Anti-Irish, Non-Racist AssClown Who Sucks Donkey Balls

* He hasn't gone away, you know. And I realise we should just ignore the F**ker but it's hard to, when Amazon drive a dump-truck up to his house and unload a pile of money.

Yet! While I have no photographic or anecdotal proof that Jeremy Clarkson Sucks Donkey Balls, and can provide no witnesses or veterinary experts to back up my claim, it is my strong belief that Jeremy Clarkson does indeed, Suck Donkey Balls.

And the Other Two would do so if he told them to.

So here's my calm, considered argument as to why Jeremy Clarkson is a Non-Racist Who Sucks Donkey Balls. Thank you for feeling my pain. (And apologies for the Wonky Donkey Lay-Out)


Jeremy Clarkson 

* Imagine this. One of the highest-profile, best paid and (apparently best loved) personalities on American TV comes back to their hotel after a day's shooting, finds he can't get a steak and proceeds to punch a subordinate in the face, while calling them a "lazy black c**t".

How long, exactly, would that fictional TV presenter's career last after that moment?

Can you imagine the media-storm, the pressure on President Obama to weigh-in, the howls of opprobrium from the liberal media (and the cries of "witch-hunt" from Fox News)?

Do you think the African-American subordinate in question would come under a lot of pressure to laugh it off as "just a bit of banter" or would have major media figures (and friends and colleagues of the presenter) lining up to say "it's not really racist" or "we know X and he's just not that type of guy - he must have been a bit tired, is all".

He would be out on his ass in 24-hours. And Amazon or Netflix sure as hell wouldn't be banging on his door to give him a multi-million pound contract.

So what's different in Jeremy Clarkson's case? We know the facts - he rolled home to his hotel from a strenuous day of pulling faces and making lame jokes about cars to find he didn't have a hot steak waiting. So he took out his anger on a young Irish subordinate, Oisin Tymon, punched him and called him a "lazy Irish c**t".

Now - replace "Irish" with "Black" (or worse), or "Paki" or ...well you get the idea.

Clarkson did this and almost got away with it. He almost kept his high-profile, highly-paid job in mainstream broadcasting because, well, because it's not really racist if it's a white Irish guy, and Jezza's a bit mad like that, and he's built a brand by "saying the things other TV personalities won't say" and sure it was just banter and that nice Hamster Hammond thinks he's a great guy... and on and on and on.

A Donkey
So - the Non-Racist in question can write things - in a national newspaper - which suggest that airport delays could be solved by "a bit of racism" . 

"Nobody is waved through any more", he wrote in The Sun. 
"The result is plain for all to see. There’s a two-hour wait. And the problem is: the only possible solution is to introduce a bit of racism."
He added: "Nobody likes a racist. Nobody likes prejudice. It has no place at work, at play, or in government. But at Heathrow airport? Hmmm."
And of course, Clarkson generates money. A LOT of money. For himself and his employers. Seems a lot of people are willing to pay to see a guy say the things some/all of us might occasionally be guilty of thinking but cannot say out loud and hope to hang onto our jobs/respect of other people.
So will his new Amazon venture work? I think not. For a number of reasons. Including; 
* Top Gear was fabulously well-resourced, a behemoth of behind the scenes talent and money. Will Amazon be able to replicate that? Can they afford to send multiple camera crews to Tibet or wherever for two weeks to film the trademark stunts and specials? Can they find (and pay) the talent to make it happen? 
* Top Gear is a brand - A brand which is owned by the BBC - Clarkson and Co will not be able to use it, so from the very start, what they do will be a shadow of that brand - an imitation... "High Octane", "Turbo Charge" or "Glop Tear".  
* Top Gear was/is that increasingly rare thing on mainstream TV - Appointment-To-View, Sunday Night Telly - so will it feel the same when you can download (from Amazon's bizarrely user-unfriendly VOD site) and binge-watch? 
* Top Gear Appealed to 30-something and up demographic - they have proved to be pretty resistant to Video-On-Demand. Yes, they will pay for HUGE dramas like House of Cards or Orange Is The New Black - but that's drama - which follows a definite arc and makes you come back for more. Not three guys randomly messing about with cars. 
* There will still be a real Top Gear - with Chris Evans - who offers the attraction of being just as annoying as Clarkson when he puts his mind to it (actually, Evans is a real petrol-head and I think he could do a great job - he has the right personality and skill-set. And if rumours of Jenson Button joining him are true - that's your hard-core, younger petrol-head demo right there). 
So maybe it will work, maybe it won't. But you wonder about the ethical and moral fibre of Amazon - and if they would pay the same money to employ our fictional US host, the fictional asshole I imagined at the start of this rant. 
* HEY! Thanks for reading. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Cpt T. Mayne Reid - The County Down Cowboy Who Inspired Roosevelt & Nabokov

* This is it folks! My most obscure story yet, and that's saying something if you've read past blogs, covering everything from tractor development in Ulster & hamster hunting in the Yemen to the strange sport of Road Bowling.

But I do find this story intriguing. So I'm compelled to share. It's the true tale of the Ulster Presbyterian Cowboy who lit up the lives of schoolboys all over the world with his romantic tales of adventures in exotic lands from Tibet to Texas. It's the story of the now totally forgotten Captain Thomas Mayne Reid.

* He was, in terms of sales and reach, the most successful Irish author of the 19th Century. His breathless tales of adventure (and botany) amongst the plains Indians of North America or the Lamas of Kathmandu were translated into scores of languages and inspired everybody from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Vladimir Nabokov to Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz and US president Teddy Roosevelt.

In his time, he was considered a serious rival to Jules Verne. Edgar Allan Poe sang his praises. The two met in Philadelphia and became great drinking buddies.

Original Frontispiece For His Best Known Work
He fought, bravely, for the young US nation, built a Mexican hacienda in suburban London and married well, before dying of "severe melancholia", broke and forgotten. But his fame would live on for generations of schoolboys, including a young Vladimir Nabokov. who at 11 years of age, translated his best known novel "The Headless Horseman" from English prose into French alexandrines (a type of poetic metre favoured for romantic epics).

He was Captain Thomas Mayne Reid of Ballyroney, Co Down (and all parts North, South, East and West).

Born the son of a Presbyterian Minister in Ulster in 1818, he studied first for the church and then worked as a schoolteacher in his native land before becoming restless and heading for the United States in 1840.

He arrived in New Orleans and embarked on a colourful life as fur trapper, frontier school-master, and society writer for a Philadelphia newspaper (where he met with Poe and became a fast friend and drinking companion).

When war broke out with Mexico in 1846, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the US Army, fought at Vera Cruz and was badly wounded while leading the charge at the battle of Chapultepec (where he would have witnessed the execution of scores of Catholic Irishmen, deserters from the US army who crossed the lines to fight with the Mexicans as the brave but doomed San Patricio Brigade - for their story, see here )

It was after the war, while recovering from his wounds, that he started to write seriously, while living in Ohio with an army buddy called Donn Piatt, who would go on to become famous in his own right as a Union General in the Civil War, wealthy publisher, patron of the arts and builder of gothic castles in the prairie lands of the West.

It was in London, in the early 1850's, that Reid began to find success with a line of adventure novels for boys, with titles like The Scalp Hunters, The Headless Horseman, White Squaw And Yellow Chief.

In total, he would write around 75 novels and many short stories and sketches - many were published in part-work in periodicals or sold as what would become to be known as dime-store novels.

These were florid, sentimental, wildly adventurous tales of cowboys and Indians, tales of the Prairie Lands and the West (only then being opened up), of Mexican banditos, brave cavalry officers, trappers, prospectors and explorers.

Caricature from Vanity Fair, 1873
One curious feature of the novels is his fascination with botany and natural history. Quite often, Mayne Reid would include the latin names of the plants or animals that featured in his stories, lines such as; "the cowboys heard a noise from just over the bluff, and began to crawl through the sage brush (Artemisia Tridenta).. far off in the distance, the sound of restless buffalo (Bison Bisonus)..".

One reviewer pointed out that the Irishman had missed his calling and should really be writing for a scientific journal.

His novels were hugely popular and found an audience around the world, especially in Poland and Russia where he was still a hero to schoolboys right up until the 1960s.

Reid became very famous and very rich. But he appears to have had a poor way with money and business. He sunk a large fortune into building an authentic Mexican Hacienda in North London (now, sadly gone) and found that as his style became very dated in the US and Europe, his money ran out quickly. He died in 1883 in London (at the age of 65 and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetary, his gravestone bearing a line from The Scalp Hunters; "This is 'weed prairie'; it is misnamed: It is the Garden of God."

He influenced a generation of schoolboys. President Teddy Roosevelt called him "one of the greatest inspirations of my life" and credited him with sparking a love of the outdoors and wild places which helped push the grown up Teddy into establishing the first National Parks.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - writer of the Sherlock mysteries - credited him as a major influence and inspiration.

Nabokov, in his autobiography Speak, Memory, name-checks all of the great writers who inspired him. But one gets more prominence than Blok, Pushkin, Flaubert, Kafka, Tolstoy etc. And that is the writer who "totally captivated me as a boy, a writer of Wild West Romances, Captain Thomas Mayne Reid".

Nabakov even admits to re-reading The Headless Horseman, his favourite, in adulthood and spends quite a while in his biography analysing the Mayne style and quoting his favourite lines (such as the description of a glass decanter glimpsed behind a Texan saloon-keeper; "an iris sparkling behind his shoulder".

He is almost totally forgotten now. But Thomas Mayne Reid inspired a generation of schoolboys to do everything from explore the world and run for president to put pen to paper.


* This is from the Spectator Magazine of London, from the long obituary published shortly after the writer's death.

"The real cause of the popularity of Captain Mayne Reid's novels, which, as regards one or two of them, may last long, is that they gratify not the boyish, but the human love for pure romance, for stories in which there are practically fairies, though they are called Mexican ladies, and genii, though they are dressed as American filibusters, and devils, though they appear as Don Rafaels or Antonios ; and probabilities are set aside, and every- thing happens as it is convenient it should happen, and nobody cares a dump whether there are any laws, human or divine, or not. Adventures are adventured, and the adventurers fall into frightful dangers, and get out of them again by wonderful means; and laws, literary or other, are simply a burden. That is the secret of the "Arabian Nights," and it is that of Mayne Reid, as is also that of the indefinitely abler novels sold in such scores of thousands by Jules Verne"


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Sam Beckett & The Tour de France

* Watching the Tour de France cycle race at the moment - and it got me thinking about Irish writer Samuel Beckett, his love of cycling and sport and the sporting connections of some other great Irish writers. So I decided to write this....

That's Young Sam Beckett - Second From Left

Sam Beckett was many things, great Irish writer, French Resistance Hero, personal school-run driver for the young AndrĂ© The Giant (a true story, as any Pub Bore like myself will tell you). 
After two years of chats with Beckett - Andre Got A Bike

Beckett was also a sports maniac - a first class cricketer for Trinity College, a fearsome amateur boxer, rugby-player, motorcyle racer and life-long Irish rugby supporter (it was said that publishers and others who dealt with him knew better than to bother Beckett when Ireland were playing). 

He loved bicycles, often mentioning them and using them as a motif in his works. And his best known play, Waiting For Godot, was apparently inspired (in part or name at least) by the Tour de France, and a hopeless old French pro-cyclist who was famous for always being last and always being late. 

The literary scholar Hugh Kenner, in his essay "The Cartesian Centaur" says that Beckett once, when asked about the inspiration for Godot, talked about "a veteran racing cyclist, bald, a 'stayer,' recurrent placeman in town-to-town and national championships, Christian name elusive, surname Godeau, pronounced, of course, no differently from Godot."

This Godeau was always the last to finish, sometimes trailing in hours behind the rest of the field, forcing frustrated race officials to miss their evening meals as the sun went down and they waited. And waited. And waited. 

Another story is that one day while walking through the streets of Paris Beckett stopped to ask members of a large crowd what they were doing. The weary spectators replied, "We are waiting for Godot," explaining that he was the oldest cyclist in the Tour de France, and had not yet passed by.
The Original Godot

That story may be a little too on-the-nose. But there really was a French pro-cyclist called Roger Godeau and (depending on who you believe) Beckett really did spend a pointless afternoon waiting for him once, while watching the famous Paris-Roubaix road race. 

The story gets even more sauce if you believe that - when Waiting For Godot had it's premier in Paris in 1953 - theatre goers who also knew their pro-cycling "got" the little joke about always waiting for this Godot character (and a few even laughed out loud - not a reaction normally associated with the famously downbeat masterpiece).

Godeau's nickname was "Popeye" (fans reckoned he looked a little like the cartoon sailor) and I often wonder if he was aware of the inspiration he provided to one of the greatest literary figures of the 20th Century?

And having done a little research into his record, it seems Roger did actually have some wins to his name and may not have been as hopeless as the Beckett story suggests. But why let that ruin a good tale?

"We've got a horse for ya!" - Bacon & Freud 
Another unique Irish artist of the 20th Century - the painter Francis Bacon - was a fiend for the horses - a hopeless gambler who knew the bookies of Soho very well and dropped many fortunes on beaten dockets. His appetite for roulette tables and race-horses was legendary - as was that of his best friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud.

Bacon's devotion to horse racing may be explained by his father's occupation - he was a noted race horse trainer on the famous Curragh in Kildare.

The two artists would bounce around the dives of Soho in the '50s and '60s, poring over a battered copy of the Racing Post and gambling away every penny they had. One bookie - a man called Alfie McLean - eventually agreed to take paintings from the two when they couldn't pay their debts. By the time Alfie died in 2006, he had 23 paintings by Freud (including many portraits of himself and his family) and around 8 Francis Bacon canvasses. Which were later auctioned off for just under £100m.

Brendan Behan loved the GAA and one of his most famous fashion accessories was a Rosette supporting the footballers of Co Down (for non GAA fans, the supporters of a team will often shout "Up Kerry!" or "Up Dublin!" depending on their county allegiance. Behan was a Dubliner who couldn't resist the surreal sentiments of a rosette that contradictorily proclaimed "Up Down!".)

Sometime soon - I'll explain how James Joyce's Ulysses is actually a searing indictment of anti-Semitism in the Gaelic Athletic Association.

But for now, we'll leave it there.

** Footnote - the reason why I know about Beckett & Godeau is because I was once sat next to a Beckett scholar at a dinner party. In the spirit of joining in,  I mentioned hearing this story and he basically looked at me (and my lack of a great college education) as some random idiot who was talking through his ass. And then voiced his opinion of me loudly.

So - instead of braining him with a wine-bottle - I went home and spent about two weeks researching the whole thing, so as to get my facts right for the next time I ran into Prof. J Smug-Condescending-Bastard.

I still haven't met the man again. But I come from a long line of patient, vengeful men.

And if you are reading this, Mr Professor, I'll be out there in the long grass. Waiting for you. You bastard.

**** hey! Thanks for reading!*******