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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dosh and Dali

So, I've just got into the house after dispensing the last of my paltry underperforming SSIA dosh (bloody Ulster Bank!) on servicing some of my spiralling debts, and I log onto breakingnews to see what's going on in the world and suddenly I find myself in an alternative universe.

I'm still not sure where I took the wrong turning through dimensions. Most likely when I boarded the Luas an hour ago, as Dublin pedestrians were unusually and uncharacteristically pleasant to me on my journey home.

But it's only just now, plugging into the world online, that I am truly convinced that I have entered some surrealist state of existence worthy of Salvador Dali's fevered imagination.

Let's peruse some of the headlines I just read:

The Government has paid €3.5 million for some War of Independence memorabilia. What? Like we don't need any hospital beds or school places anymore, that we can now afford to blow millions on some prison sketches? What cabbages have we elected to Government?

A fire broke out at a British nuclear plant that is already nearly fifty years old today. But hey, that's no problem, folks, even though they had to shut the creaking reactor down, and even though the antique plant is due for closure next year. No radiation, we are assured, could possibly have leaked out.

Point one, we don't believe you, BNFL, because you've lied so often in the past. And point two, close the fucking thing down already! It's well past its sell-by date and is now proving positively dangerous!

Two of the biggest scrota in the music industry, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Eminem no less, might be about to team up for, God forbid, a rap musical. Kill them now or it will be huge, I warn you.

But the proof that I have fallen through a gap in time and space into some surreal alternative universe lies in this story - An Irish high street bank finally admits that house prices are falling!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Daily Mail

For the media savvy reader who has everything - here's the Daily Mail-o-matic! Why bother reading the Daily Mail when instead the Daily Mail-o-matic can auto-generate a plausible and convincing Daily Mail headline for any occasion?

As you can see to the side, the Daily Mail has been responsible for outrageous headlines for a long, long time.

My favourite so far - Will the French impregnate Britain's Swans?

Well, will they????

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Why Irish builders should move to Tibet

We all know there's a 'downturn' under way in the Irish construction market. This has something to do with the fact that Irish houseprices are currently marginally more unbelievable than the toothfairy and the Yeti in a clinch.

But it also has something to do with the revelation that a quarter of a million houses in the country are lying empty according to the last census.

We have all the houses we already need. Why pay the silly prices being asked? Once that penny dropped for people, so did the asking prices.

As we watch Irish house prices flutter downwards towards something vaguely and distantly resembling normality, let us consider the plight of the poor, downtrodden property developer.

Yes, he will have smirked wryly to himself over a nice Scotch at the golf club this weekend as news permeated his idyll that his old pals in Fianna Fail have been returned for another five years of playing 'protect the builder.'

But the bottom line is that all the pips have already been squeezed out of that orange.

It's always worth chancing your arm trying to flog crap holiday homes in places no one's heard of, like Cape Verde, especially if people trust you, like they do Eddie Hobbs.

But for most builders, interested only in their declared mission in life of knocking out substandard homes for over the odds prices as quickly as possible, the prospect of slogging it out in the Cape Verde villa market does not appeal.

So what to do? Time to move to Lhasa, I'd suggest.

The ancient capital of Tibet consisted of the Potala Palace, home of the Dalai Lama, and the Jokhang Temple, around which Tibet's main tourist drag of Barkhor Street now runs (see pic of Barkhor above).

A photo I have of Lhasa in 1916 indicates these two buildings as the only things on the entire plain between the Himalayan ranges. Nowadays, the entire stretch of the city, from the Norbulingka Palace to beyond the Barkhor Area, is a predominantly Tibetan 'old' town.

This in itself is odd, given how Tibetans are traditionally semi-nomadic, following their yaks in semi-permanent tents for much of the year, often going on pilgrimages solo, spending time at sacred lakes or sites in contemplation and so on.

But there you go, Lhasa the city exists. But there is another Lhasa - the Chinese immigrant city best viewed from the back of the Potala. This is twice the size of the Tibetan city, and is, apart from its relative cleanliness, indistinguishable from any other Chinese city.

This end of town has the little kids in their sports tracksuit school uniforms, the Bank of China ATMs, the garish neon signs for cheap hotels or good Sichuan food, the travel agents, the shopping centres, the gated communities, the car showrooms.

This is the product, not only of sixty years of Chinese occupation, but also of the dozen flights and numerous trains daily arriving in Lhasa from China in recent years. Lhasa is a Chinese boomtown right now, and Chinese from all over the Middle Kingdom are arriving looking for work or to make a fortune out of foreign tourists.

It's the wild west, from China's perspective, especially since the SARs of Hong Kong and Macau are off-limits for most Chinese.

Now, currently China is gobbling up a quarter of the world's cement, a similar amount of the world's steel and all sorts of other construction materials as it tries to build its way out of murky economic waters, create the Beijing Olympics, renovate Shanghai as a financial centre, and cater for an indigenous property speculation and stock speculation drive.

Mostly, this building is going on in the East, in places like Shenzhen and Shanghai, as well as in Beijing for the Olympics. But the exception is Tibet, where building of housing and massive infrastructure is proceeding at breakneck pace, presumably in an attempt to increase the rate of cultural colonisation and Sinization in Tibet.

Now, it would seem to me that a canny Irish builder looking for a bit of work to tide him over between Irish property boom cycles could do worse than pop over to Tibet right now.

There's no end of work for immoral, shady developers used to corruption and backhanders, who are practised in the dark arts of throwing up developments as quickly and shoddily as possible.

Form an orderly queue, lads.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

You asked for it

You asked for a Fianna Fail government and it looks like you're going to get one.

Be careful what you wish for. Good luck with dealing with hours of daily commuting, yo-yoing house prices, a derelict health service and hundreds of new stealth taxes.

Hope you enjoy the corruption in government, an 'unexpected' trebling of the cost of the airport metro, more motorways through sites of national heritage and more revelations of a Taoiseach on the make at the tribunals.

The great thing about the democratic process is that people generally get the government they deserve. Whether it will be Fianna Fail + randomers, Fianna Fail + the Greens or Fianna Fail + Labour, it will be a marginally more caring and equitable government than any government with the morally bankrupt Progressive Democrats.

Farewell and good riddance to McDowell and his neo-con cronies. (Picture of McDowell resigning before my eyes last night to follow.)

But whatever government is returned this week will be a Fianna Fail government. I wonder what it says about us that that is all the Irish people deserve.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Exit Poll

Exit polls put FF on 41.6%, FG on 26.3%, Labour on 9.9%, SF 7.3%, Greens 4.8%, PDs 2.6% and others at 4.8%.
Some websites and news sources make that a FF government, and Paddy Power has already paid out on Bertie as next Taoiseach.
But my number crunching suggests that that can only lead to a rainbow, unless Labour do a FF deal or FF go into bed with SF and/or the Greens.
It still seems to be an extremely tight election, people. Roll on the first counts at lunchtime!
I'll be in the RDS this evening monitoring six of the Dublin counts and will be reporting back to Cian and the boys at Irishelection.com with live updates.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Back from the Orient

I'm now back from the far east, and have quite a number of observations to make about China. But I'll do that next week, as it's impossible to ignore the small matter of a general election this week.

It looks like Bribeable Bert's in real trouble over the small matter of receiving free houses and maintenance buy-offs from shadowy businessmen in Manchester. This doesn't exactly fill me with hope for the nation, since he's still neck and neck to form the next government.

What does it actually take to convince the rump 35% or so that the current batch of Fianna Fail are a ragbag of crooks and incompentants? Do they actually need to see them exiting the Bank of Ireland wearing stripey pyjamas and masks carrying bags with 'Swag' written on them before they understand?

Anyhow, there is at least cheering news that the neo-cons who've actually been running the country for the past decade, while the Fianna Failures were busy lining their pockets, are set to be wiped out.

At least the nation seems to have copped on to the PDs at long last. Perhaps it was Harney's presiding over ever deteriorating health services, while trying to sell off the best bits to her mates, or perhaps it is the perennial frothing mouthed anti-democratic insanity of McDowell that has led them to this pass.

But since those two are the only ones likely to be returned to the Dail, it's more likely that the public have finally copped that there is no PD party. It's just a flag of convenience flown by a truly bizarre bunch of right-wing fellow travellers, each with their own personal reasons for wishing to be a big fish in an ever-evaporating pond.

On the other hand, the Shinners seems set to consolidate a lot of gains, perhaps even enough to force a hung Dail or minority government. In which case, the question is will bribeable Bert be persuaded into bed with the gunmen?

Labour are continuing to insist that they won't assist a Fianna Fail coalition, but that rather depends on them making up the numbers with Fine Gael and, perhaps, the Greens. Which it's looking dubious that they will.

The bookies still like the look of a FF-Lab coalition despite Rabbitte's rantings, and if that does transpire, you can expect to see Pat hoist by his Mullingar petard, leaving the way clear for Brendan Howlin to become Tanaiste.

In short, it's the most exciting, and crucial, election held in Ireland for well over a generation.

Make sure to play your part by casting a vote this week, even if it's only for the Christian Solidarity or Immigration Control candidates.

Actually, I'm joking. If either of those appeal, you shouldn't be allowed to vote.

Coming soon: why Irish builders should move to Tibet.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Great firewall of China


Or, in the current circumstances, ni hao.

Sorry for the lack of updates.

Please blame the great firewall of China for stifling my normal loquaciousness.

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

In the meantime, here's a nice pic of a pagoda in the Sichuan city of Chengdu for you all to enjoy.

Ta ta for now.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Vote Skinner!

I was a bit late registering as a political party, so I'm a 'write-in' candidate.

I'm running in your constituency.

You have to write in my name, though. Just scribble out any name you recognise and write JC Skinner instead, or go for my preferred option of writing it in at the top of the list and drawing a separate wee box and putting the number one in there.

If I get elected, I intend to introduce a private member's bill making cocaine mandatory for Enda Kenny, introduce a law declaring Michael McDowell illegal, and I will personally host a dinner in Manchester every week for any of Bertie Ahern's mates who want to give me £30,000.

I will also cull Mary Harney and process her into food for starving economic migrants.

The Green Party will be relocated to Rockall, which will be made independent and given to them to live underground on, like hobbits.

Sinn Fein members will be made to fight the Irish Rangers to the death in special gladiatorial bouts to be held in Croke Park. They will be armed with pikes and copies of Danny Morrison's novel, 'West Belfast.' The Rangers will be issued with Uzis.

Ian Paisley will be stuffed, mounted and glued onto the side of Croagh Patrick to make a nice Mount Rushmore type national monument.

The Hill of Tara will be placed on giant stilts so the motorway can go under it. We will also build a tunnel to Iceland, to reduce commuting times to Dublin from the Arctic Circle.

A new Luas line will be routed through Bono's living room, so that we can all 'see where he lives', like he said we should in one of his songs. It will feature a loop-the-loop section.

Vote Skinner. Better than the other shower.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


One ticket for the Champions' League final in Athens!

I'm serious! I was in Istanbul, and I really want to be in Athens to see Liverpool pick up their sixth European Cup.

If you have a genuine ticket that you want to sell, please mail me and tell me how much you're looking for. I've got the money, and I want to go very badly.

Please help!