The Lung Brothers
Hanging out at the extreme end of the long tail ...
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I grew up in Ireland during the seventies and eighties, a turbulent and tragic time for the island when different factions on both sides of the political divide in the north were committing the most cruel and vicious acts of violence. Although the troubles barely affected us where we lived, there was rarely an evening when news of another shooting or another public bombing was not occupying our television screen.
I still remember the shame and anger I felt from the fact that the vast majority of these acts of brutality were committed by those who claimed allegiance to my national flag. Furthermore, any sort of political resolution seemed totally impossible and it looked like there would never be an end to it.
However, the recent events in the Middle East have given me thought about how the situation could have been made much worse and pushed beyond a point of no return.
….imagine if every time the provisional IRA or the INLA committed an atrocity, the British military had bombarded Dublin, Cork and Galway in retaliation.
….imagine if they had called it their right to legitimately defend their nation and that they were doing their very best to only target terrorists.
….imagine if those terrorist targets included hospitals, schools, family homes and kids playing football.
….imagine if they added insult to injury by claiming that these targets were human shields and complained that the terrorists should really be standing out in the open and wearing bright colors so they could be killed more easily.
….imagine if all those people in the south who had been vehemently opposed the terrorism in the north, were to have members of their families blown to pieces in their own homes.
….imagine if, instead of condemning these bombardments, the rest of the world condoned them and justified the right of the United Kingdom to defend itself.
….imagine how much all of that would work as an anti-British recruitment campaign and would have swollen the ranks of paramilitary organizations in the south.
…. and imagine how it would all have fed the vicious and never-ending cycle of violence.
We’d probably still be at it today.
Fortunately, although not perfect, our neighbors happened to be a relatively civilized lot. They also had a lot of recent experience in the painful act of letting go of (or not letting go of) historical colonies and knew that the only possible solutions to the Irish situation were (a) apartheid (b) genocide or (c) patience, arbitration and negotiation.
Had it been another century, they probably would have opted for (a) or (b) but because of all those damn twentieth-century meddlers like Ghandi and Martin Luther King and a rabble of bloody humanists in their own parliament, the Brits made a play for peace by consensus. It took years of multilateral bickering, trust building, multiple setbacks but thanks to the hard work of neutral negotiators and the courage of the Northern Irish voting public, a tenuous ceasefire was established. So far so good.
Although I suppose the Irish situation is not really comparable to Israel/Palestine. Both sides up in Belfast gained a lot from the ceasefire but Israel would get nothing from giving concessions to the Palestinians that it doesn’t have already. It’s happily continuing with its long-term "unofficial" plan to push the Arabs out of the West Bank, most of its enemies are stuck in an open-air prison and its economy is booming. The world’s apathy and the growth of the religious right at home mean that its military can do what it likes without consequences. So the Israelis have nothing to gain by a negotiated peace and the Palestinians have nothing to lose by continuing the war.
And so it goes.
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Ideas to Get Rich, Volume 9, Chapter 3.
Lung the Elder came up with an absolutely genius idea for making a killing while we were quaffing beers and seeing the Algerian national team get tragically beaten by the Germans.
It’s an iPhone application that monitors the conversation while you’re chatting to a beautiful woman and whispers the right thing to say to her into your ear. And it will be called ….(drumroll)……………………..
……why the CyranoDeBergerAP of course!
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
So it turns out that the little silicone thing you pop into a baby’s or a toddler’s mouth to keep them calm has three different names according to your geographical location. Curiously these words actually might say a lot about their culture of origin:
THE PACIFIER (USA)
Let’s face it - this is a name for a handgun. You can just imagine Clint Eastwood standing over a two-year old’s cot and saying “OK kid, I’m givin’ you five seconds to quit bawlin’, otherwise I’m gonna stick this here pacifier into your mouth, pull back the hammer and….”. Maybe they should call the baby’s squeezy toy the “Subduer”.
THE DUMMY (UK)
This word could only have been created in the Victorian age when the unseemliness of a wailing brat would have been totally incomprehensible to a respectably repressed Pater and Mater. They probably thought that it was due to some sort of mental retardation. Out for a stroll in the park with their perambulator, they must have been completely mortified when little Edmund began his wailing. “Oh for God’s sake Winifred, why the does child have to make such an infernal racket in civilized company? He’s obviously backward. Why don’t you stick something into the little cretin’s mouth to shut him up and keep it there until we ship him off to boarding school?” Thus the dummy was born.
THE SOOTHER (Ireland etc.)
It’s actually a good name for the object in question but there’s just one problem. Why is it that the country that uses this word is the one country that can’t pronounce it right? Yup, we do have a hard time getting a hang of the old “TH”. So this little article becomes “sooder” which sounds like something horrible that you’d buy in IKEA just so you can give it to your mother-in-law as a gift.
Monday, April 14, 2014
So Who Posted the First Selfie?
DIEGO VELAZQUEZ @diegoveloz 1 day ago
Hey guys, chk this out. I took this portr8 a few of weeks ago n painted myself in the background. Is that totally INSANE or what??? Gotta be a first, im thinking of callin it a backgroundie.
RAPHAEL @raffasanzio 11 hours ago
@diegoveloz Naw dude, backgroundie way too long. How bout selfie? AWSOME portrait BTW! Looks like the cast of G.o.Thrones.
PICASSO @pablopick 9 hours ago
@diegoveloz Yeah dude like whos the dog on the right? And what bout the canine one too? WOOF! LoL!!!
JAN VAN EYCK @janvantheman 7 hours ago
@diegoveloz You 4 real dawg? My white dutch ASS say U b first. I bin doin that shit 4 years. Chk out my portr8 o the Arnolfini hitchin. Take a good look that mirror back there n say that aint me. Now THAT b a selfie mofo!!
HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC @henriletrekkie 6 hours ago
@janvantheman Awsome portr8! The chick is haawt!!!!
MICHELANGELO DE CARAVAGGIO @mickcaravan 5 hours ago
@henriletrekkie NOT my type ;- )
@henriletrekkie NOT my type ;- )
PETER PAUL RUBENS @ppdarube 3 hours ago
@mickcaravan Yeah too scrawny for me. LoL!
DIEGO VELAZQUEZ @diegoveloz 3 hours ago
@janvantheman Shit that could b any1 in your mirror. I,m sooo still calling firstie here.
JAN VAN EYCK @janvantheman 2 hours ago
@diegoveloz The Hell U R, U dago ashole!
@janvantheman Oh and BTW. That light-coming-through-the-window-on-the-left thing? FYI, I like totally started that.
JAN VAN EYCK @janvantheman 1 hour ago
@johanSvrmr Yeah, well fuck U too Johnny!
EDOUARD MANET @showmethemanet 53 minutes ago
Hey guys. I did a selfie too. Kinda hard to C but I,m in the third row of the café reflected in the mirror. Pretty kewl eh?
MICHELANGELO DE CARAVAGGIO @mickcaravan 44 minutes ago
@showmethemanet FAIL Dude! Cant C U anywhere
@showmethemanet TOTAL FAIL, man!!! U got like a duck-face selfie, a nite-out selfie and a blurry selfie all rolled into one. Total cliché. Why didnt U paint Urself in the gym holding your pet while U're at it?
@showmethemanet Yeah Nice try buddy but FAIL BIATCH!!!
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Enough with the Andersons Already!
Once again the spotlight is on Hollywood and their shoddy performance in the field of human resources. This time round the general criticism is focused on the fact that the industry is currently employing far too many film directors named Anderson.
“It’s an absurd situation” said Joanie Novak a Hollywood reporter “You go to rent a whimsical movie about a pair of innocent kids running away to live in the forest but instead of quirky boyscouts and nostalgic decor, you end up with aliens slicing each others’ faces off or oil barons bludgeoning each other to death.”
To remedy this situation, the American Association of Filmmakers will require all the directors named Anderson to draw straws. The long straw gets to keep his name and the others will have to choose a new family name for themselves. “But for Christ’s sake, just chose a normal one.” adds Novak. “Don’t go inventing a daft surname with the letters you randomly picked out of a scrabble bag. I mean looked what happened to that stupid git M. Night Anderson.”
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Random Comments - Because I don’t Partake of the Twitter.
Shouldn’t the young chap now change his name to Justin Imbiber…..?
So it turns out that Lindsay Lohan acts in movies too. Who knew…?
Ah Syria. Another country keeping up that proud tradition of genocide and moustaches.
To think that the US almost had a Mormon in the Whitehouse and for the first time, the nation could conceivably have had a Second Lady.
Two thoughts occurred to me the last time I visited Ikea – firstly I thought about all the wooden furniture they build and the quantity of sawdust it must produce, then in the food shop I wondered what they put into all the cookies and crackers to make them so darn cheap and then…bingo!
I have new respect for French cinematic melodramas. I used to think that the films were sexist male fantasies because there was always this short ugly middle-aged man who manages to make young beauties fall in love with him. Ridiculous!...........and then Sarkozy and Hollande come along….
It turns out that most of the Chinese government bigwigs have been laundering money abroad. Well, gee whizz, slap my thigh, what a shock. I guess that might explain the three million empty Chinese restaurants in Barcelona that never seem to close…..
Monday, January 13, 2014
Catalan History 101: Or Why Backing the Wrong Horse Can Lead to Some Serious Long Term Hassle.
This year of our Lord 2014 will be quite a big deal over here in Barcelona. And it all started over three hundred years ago when a complete mongo was ruling the largest empire in the world.
At the end of the 17th century, Charles II was at the helm of the Kingdom of Spain which meant he had sovereignty over the whole of the Iberian peninsula, a massive chunk of the Americas, slices of the far-east, pretty much all of what is now Belgium and the Netherlands (Flanders) not to mention lots of juicy equity in France.
The problem was that thanks to successive generations of Hapsburg inbreeding, young Chuck was a frail, sickly halfwit with an Appalachian gene puddle and a face to prove it. Seriously, check out this guy’s portraits. He’d have been kicked out of the Rocky Horror Show.
So Spain naturally went to the dogs under his rule, he naturally died young and naturally he left no heirs despite being married twice. When he did die at the age of 38, the physician said his body “did not contain a single drop of blood; his heart was the size of a peppercorn; his lungs corroded; his intestines rotten and gangrenous; he had a single testicle, black as coal and his head was full of water”. A walking argument against the monarchical system of government, it was probably just as well the poor bastard didn’t breed.
The noble soap opera of succession:
Before croaking, Charles had named Phillip of Anjou as his successor. Phillip was of the French house of Bourbon (not a pub) and was related to King Louis XIV. This potential boost in French influence made a number of other European powers very jumpy and even though Phil promised to cut all ties with the motherland when he became King of Spain, the English, Dutch and Austrians went to war in 1701 to prevent him from taking the throne. So began the war of Spanish Succession, a bloodbath that lasted 13 years, caused countless deaths and misery all over the world, practically bankrupted nations and didn’t make the slightest bit of difference in the end.
Consequences for Catalonia:
The other pretender to the Spanish throne (Phillip’s competitor) was one Archduke Charles of Austria and it was his army that attacked and took Barcelona quite early in the war (1705). By 1712-1713 the war was finally winding down. It was becoming obvious that the Bourbon forces were getting the upper hand and the Brits were even talking treaties. However, Catalonia decided to stay loyal to the Hapsburgs and feared that all their self-rule would be removed if the crown went to Bourbon-controlled Madrid. So they decided to dig in, fight and hope that some European ally would eventually come to the rescue.
The Franco-Spanish forces arrived outside Barcelona in the summer of 1713 but due to a lack of men and artillery, they had to hang around filing their nails until the spring of the following year when twenty thousand reinforcements arrived. The locals fought bravely but inevitably the overwhelming Bourbon forces bust through the city walls at the end of August. The final standoff / massacre took place beside the Santa Maria del Mar church on the 11 of September 1714. This date (whose importance has unfortunately been co-opted by a more recent tragedy) is now the national day of Catalonia and represents the moment when the region lost its sovereignty to Madrid.
Since that day the Catalans have been somewhat ‘limited’ by the rest of Spain. Their access to the riches of the new world was limited, their language was limited (especially under Franco’s rule) and a lot of decisions concerning how the region was run were made from Madrid. This caused a lot of Catalans to resent the rest of Spain and caused a lot of the rest of Spain to resent the Catalans - a charming tradition that has lived on to this day.
After the siege, a natural distrust of the locals led the newly victorious forces to pull down 17% of the old town and use the stones to build a massive citadel in its place. Most of the locals who lost their homes were moved out to the large sandbank that had been forming over the previous centuries. This area became known as Barceloneta (little Barcelona) and all the new houses and streets were built long and narrow and positioned in the direction of the citadel. This meant that the soldiers in the fort could see down and if necessary, fire cannon down any street they wanted.
Today there is a park where the fort used to be (Park of the Citadel), the area that was torn down to build the citadel is now the elegant Born neighborhood and Barceloneta is a hip place to stop for a tapa on the way back from the city beach. When I first moved here, the beautiful abandoned Born Market was going to be converted into a library but then they found ruins of the old pre-siege streets beneath the floor and those plans were scrapped. It took almost two decades and went ridiculously over budget but they finally managed open the museum/cultural centre a few months ago. It’s actually not bad, but the library would have been more useful.
Catalonia has become one of the most productive regions in Spain and therefore a lot of the taxes from here are used to support the less prosperous regions of the nation - something perfectly normal within a contented federation of states, yet it’s something that chafes with the Catalans who feel they’re getting ripped off by Big Brother.
Since Franco popped his clogs in the mid-nineteen seventies, there has been constant local political pressure to give Catalonia more autonomy with eventual independence as an end goal. The region has won a lot of concessions – a local government with a lot of clout, an education system that favors the Catalan language, a local police force etc. Yet it is mostly all those tax Euros going to Madrid that gets caught in the Catalan craw, especially now that the economy’s fallen into the toilet.
Since 2008, the local nationalist coalition has really been upping the ante. Wherever there are people suffering, there is usually some opportunistic politician looking for a scapegoat and the push for independence has served as a nice distraction from any local mishandling of the economy or giving away of public assets to your pals through privatization.
The nationalistic fervor that will come with the tri-centenary of the fall of Barcelona couldn’t have come at a better time for our current masters. Despite the gutting of the health system, the chronic decline in education and the reduction in assistance to the poor and vulnerable, all we can expect from 2014 in Catalonia is a lot of pomp, jingoism and vitriolic flag waving with Madrid painted as the cause of all evils.
The fact is, if Catalonia really wants to break free, fair enough. In the long term, it might not be a bad idea. However, being realistic in the short term, there will be a tough price to pay. The next generation will have to live through some serious hardship as the economy stabilizes. Spain might decide to stick a nasty duty on Catalan imports just out of spite. If the people are expecting the instant Utopia that the politicians are peddling, they’re in for a nasty shock.
Another problem is that the European Union wants its Spanish debts paid and in the event of Catalan independence, it will need to know what proportion of this repayment will come from here. Nor is Brussels keen to encourage a whole lot of fragmentation across the Union – first Catalonia and next it’ll be Scotland, Corsica, Northern Italy and God knows where else queuing up for a divorce. They have already turned their back on the idea of Catalan independence with a statement last week where they fobbed off the problem as an “internal Spanish issue”.
The Spanish prime minister has being criticized by his own people for not doing enough to combat the Catalan drive for autonomy but I reckon he’s cleverly playing the waiting game. The Catalan government keeps asking for a referendum for independence and he just keeps calmly repeating that it would be against the national constitution. Without support from Europe and continued inactivity, he probably reckons that the movement will blow itself out. He might be right.
Personally I’m not too pushed either way. Being Irish, I’ve had more than my fill of radical nationalism. I figure that self-determination should be a right but that a people shouldn’t kid themselves about the immediate upheavals and hardships that will surely follow independence. If you really want it, you’ve got to be prepared to suffer for it, at least for a while.
Still, this year will probably grate a bit shrill. I’ll definitely stay home on the 11th of September.
It is curious to think though. If the Catalans had supported the Bourbons from the beginning of the War of Succession, maybe it would be Madrid protesting for independence and fighting to preserve the minority Spanish language.