Archive for July, 2006

The Sky Was The Limit

Monday, July 31st, 2006

So I am reading a book at the moment consisting of essays by Arthur Schopenhauer. That’s just the sexy kind of guy Zoomtard is. While waiting at traffic lights, listening to Lyric, he pops out his 19th Century philosophy and reads a paragraph. Then at the next lights he re-reads the same paragraph. Then eventually he gets home and he gets Neuro to explain it to him. There is a troubling aspect to reading this esteemed philosopher’s thoughts. The trouble is it is total shite.

Now I am not just making the point strongly so that you’ll be interested in what I have to say. This is not the LiamMcD principle at work. But amongst the ruminations on how suicide is pretty much as close to a human right as you can get, that parents never give birth to children smarter than them and and that science is the accumulation of facts, you get some A-grade quality shite that you might expect on the crazier fringes of the Internet or from jokers on late night radio call-in shows, but not from a guy that some Zoomtard readers think is a genius. His chapter on women stands proudly as the biggest load of crap I have read on pages that weren’t printed at www.chick.com.

Of all the jackass arguments to make, trying to claim that women are obviously uglier than men is right up there. Obviously, as a mostly heterosexual man, I appreciate the feminine form. But all the women around me (and I polled 6 because I am writing this post from bed! Ba-dum-tsh! Giggity!) appreciate the feminine form regardless of their sexual orientation. Maybe Arthur could have aimed for a draw and won by taking the high moral ground that since men and women are equal, their beauty is equal and our preference of women over men is just the arbitrary tastes of today’s society. He couldn’t make that argument though because his point behind the “men are prettier than women” (!) argument was that men are better than women. Women, in fact, are so untrustworthy that it is questionable whether they should even be allowed to vote. On and on, like a Ukrainian meal, the chapter dragged on, bringing more and more sick up into my mouth. It leaves me with this one thought- how did humanity take so very long to appreciate the most obvious fact about humanity- that they come in two equal but different kinds? HOW!?

So I saw two very cool things last week. The first is the video for At The Bottom Of Everything by Bright Eyes starring Terence Stamp and the second was Thank You For Smoking. The first is a song about a girl who is consoled by the passenger seated beside her as her plane plummets into the sea and the second is a biting satire about the lobbying industry in America and the tobacco industry. It is a great movie you should go see for three reasons-

1. It is funny.

2. It has Katie Holmes in it before she went crazy.

3. It has a lead character who you still sympathise with even though he is never portrayed as anything less than a despicable asshole.

What it got me thinking about was relationships though. Maybe I just really enjoyed it because it sparked the right neurons in my brain that made bright connections but you’ll see it and it will be another 6/10 Hollywood “satire” like Fun With Dick And Jane. One of the really nice touches in the movie is how the character’s dilemmas revolve around his son and the fact that his son really likes him. As his son expresses and interest in knowing his father, his father is changed. There is probably some deep theological reflection in there about the desire to be known that is universal to all humanity to some degree and the character of the Christian God which is defined in the Trinity in terms of relationship. But I’ll save your atheism and not bring it to the fore. I am a very lazy evangelist.

In case you haven’t seen them yet, YouTube now has the Jesus videos. They are well worth the next 12 minutes of your working day. Even your boss will agree with that. They were made by Vintage 21 church.

Jesus Video 1

Jesus Video 2

Jesus Video 3

Jesus Video 4

Your Correspondent, Makes the Ewoks look like Shaft

Please Wear The Mermaid Suit This Time

Friday, July 28th, 2006

So Babette has been having mosquito problems. I think I know a solution. Now don’t go calling me Professor Sciencealot because it will just embarrass me but mosquitoes rarely if ever show any interest in me and I think it is because my blood is filled with a dark, viscous liquid they hate. That is, caffeine. Even when I drink green tea in an effort to dent my macho image, the mossies stay the hell away from me. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they don’t drink my blood because of pheromones or they mistake my pasty Irish arms for gone-off milk. But for the moment, I advise a huge increase in coffee consumption. If you hate your blood being sucked by insect vampires, stop whining and just spoon the Nescafé straight into your mouth.

I am suffering badly from Ukraine-lag. That is the condition where you can’t understand what free time is for and you find yourself looking around all the time wondering where those 8 students you are responsible for have gone. Still, a week hanging out with my wife has had a favourable effect on my disposition and I am now unimaginably, smugly happy. You are so lucky you didn’t meet me for lunch today. I would have driven you crazy with my humming and my smiling. Also, Neuro wasn’t around so I had a salad consisting of corn, mango chutney and tomatoes. I am a pregnant woman trapped in the body of a 24 year old man. Just because photos make your eyes happy, here is a photo of Kharkiv:

Independence Square, Kharkiv, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

So the wife-unit and I had as normal an evening as can be imagined in our weird lives on Tuesday. Sure, we had dinner at 9.30, but we had in front of the TV like any good consumerist couple should in this day and age. Sure, the TV is in the kitchen, taking up half the dining table because the living room is in a state of partiovation (where you are almost done redecorating) but we ate our dinner while we watched Prison Break on the googlebox. We didn’t understand Prison Break because it is another Lost-style show where you have to see the beginning and keep watching for the momentum to build. But we did see a bit of the news and a bit of Celebrity Love Island and it is about this I shall post today.

On the news were a group of devout Catholics who had been acquitted by a jury on the charge of damaging American war planes. They obviously damaged the planes but the jury didn’t feel this was a crime because well, they were acting out of convictions that most Irish people seem to share- that the crime committed is that our neutrality was diluted without discussion. Later, on Celebrity Love Island, born-again Christian Shane Lynch was giving chastity a hard time while he frolicked around with some other celebrities who I don’t recognise. I don’t feel bad about not recognising them because the couldn’t recognise such landmarks as the Sphinx or even Edinburgh Castle (which is in their country!) during a fun little test. The fun is that they are stupid and we, the viewing public, get to watch it. The real joke is that they are in some tasty tropical corner of the world and we’ve wasted 45 minutes of our lives looking at them.

I don’t know this guy, Shane Lynch. I know students of mine have had interaction with him in the past. I wonder who is advising him, both professionally and spiritually, that he would agree to go on such a show. I am all about the Christian engaging with culture, with getting knee-deep in the gutter and redeeming every square inch of creation. But I don’t think the producers of Celebrity Love Island are about to give Shane that opportunity. Maybe he would have been better off on a reality TV show about starting up a vineyard or where you have to sell radiators door-to-door. I don’t know much about reality TV but I imagine that kind of thing is the norm.

Against the weird and stomach-turning shenanigans on TV3, RTE news reported about the Australian, Irish, Scottish and American group who had come together to vandalise the US plane. I have sympathy for the United States and their tragic merry dance in Iraq. I should say that beforehand so that I am not labelled as another anti-American, knee-jerk Leftie. I doubt these following comments are stereotypical Leftie comments anyway, but just so you know, I am not against American military intervention as a rule. But these four, they came from different countries and were unified in their opposition to a war that they feel is immoral in conception and evil in practice. Motivated by their faith in God, they planned and successfully broke into a hanger and did symbolic damage to a support plane for the Iraqi invasion. With their job done, they sat down and began to pray while they waited for the Gardaí.

I wouldn’t feel as strongly as they do about Iraq. I am not a pacifist. But I am a Christian and it warms my heart with a deep glow when I hear about convictions this strong and actions so noble. Christianity is not a set of rules to live by, like so many religious people think it is. Simultaneously, Grace is not a blank cheque for you to cash in on your last day, like certain former boy band members seem to think it is. It is nothing more than a radical relationship with the Creator God that ought to reorientate every aspect of your life. It is meant to change how you view TV, read the newspaper or buy your coffee but it is also, when embraced, capable of welling up inside of you courage and charity and passion that you never could have had. Waxing lyrical is one of the things I regret the most on this site when I reread old entries so I’ll stop before I puke on myself. But for two minutes on Tuesday, the revolution was televised. I know the words, I just wish I could sing along more…

Your Correspondent, Throwing the Fight and Taking it Lying Down

A Primus Flu Break-Out In Sector Ukr-NE

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

My nephew, F, is a little boy who has been raised on a diet of organic tofu and expensive infant yoga classes. Yet in such yuppified environments, he still is totally obsessed with diggers and busses and planes and bombs. It is such a challenge to my instinctive, empty headed ideas about gender being manufactured by society. He is a little man who likes mannish things.

But he is also very very smart. Even smarter than the other smart nephew, S. He has gotten to that fascinating stage where his vocabulary has been outstripped by his conceptual intelligence and he is scrabbling to catch up. As such, he wants words for all the big, noisy, dirty masculine things that beep and boom around his fascinating world. Skips are no longer called skips. F has christened them “lorry-bins”. In the absence of the word crane, F talks about “sky-diggers”. If I didn’t know this little 2 year old had made them up, I wouldn’t believe it.
My re-entry into western society has been greeted with a slightly more muted response from the gossip columnists than I had expected but between evenings out with Neuro and some sultry jazz, Superman pretending to be Messiah and re-reading The Stand, a fantastic dark apocolyptic tale from the Kingmeister about the end of the world, there have not been many classic photo-ops.

Your Correspondent, The Original Retrosexual

A Disease These Doctors Can’t Treat

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

So Kiev could definitely be the object of your affections if you could speak the lingo. It is Ukrainian that they speak over here in the middle which leaves me even more verbally cripppled than usual.

One of the students I am working with told me a hilarious story about his primary school days in Cork. During prayers one morning he thought it would be a good idea to kneel down. While kneeling down he forgot he was meant to be talking to the One True Living God and instead realised he could probably fit his head in the space between the back and the seat of his chair.

So he begins to wriggle his little Corkonian head into the chair-space until with a great “Aaah” moment he finally pops through. His friend beside him saw the genius of this idea and thought he’d get in on the action. So the two little boys had managed to wriggle their heads into the backs of their chairs while their classmates and teachers prayed earnestly.

It was only a short while before they realised they couldn’t get their heads back out of the hole in the chairs. So their moment of ecstasy soon turned to child-paniced claustrophobic misery. While the rest of the little angels offered up their sincere thoughts and wishes to Adonai, my student bawled manically.

He doesn’t realise how appropriate a metaphor this is for my professional life sometimes.
Your Correspondent, picked in advance by some careful hand with an absolute concept of beauty

Where The Hero Brings The Chillis

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

Having lunch with a bunch of future airliner designers from Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, they took an unusual delight in telling me how a drunk Irish man goes fishing.

He drowns the fish.

They weren’t quite sure what the difference was between Iceland and Ireland but that just proves you can be a good sociologist and still be crap at geography. The weather is astounding. They still haven’t invented flavour here yet but the food is better than ever before. Sometimes, at dusk, I think “if only I could read the alphabet, I could grow to love this place”. Then I get distracted by a loud noise or a dog or an impromptu outdoor kareoke session and lose my train of thought.

Your Correspondent, Has a face you could punch all day without feeling guilty.

Where Eurovision winners get seats in Parliament.

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

So we’re on an overnight train from the capital to the world’s largest tractor manufacturing centre and I haven’t even put my rucksack away, nevermind unfolded and stuck up my poster of Natalie Imbruglia when an overweight middle aged man asks me in stuttering English if I had a guitar. I technically wasn’t telling a lie when I said no but then again, he could see the little travel guitar sitting on the bunk and owned by my travel mate.

In he came and he regaled us with drunken incoherent rants about the alleged and apparently very important Jewishness of Roman Abramovich, the splendour of the Titannic and the fact that he did not intend to solve the Irish problem between Catholics and Protestants.

Although I was shattered from long journeys and train station food and just the fatigue of leading a bunch of people, I didn’t resent his company. His determination to overcome the language barrier was impressive and his unwillingness to let go of the dream of playing an out of tune guitar was quixotically charming. Is charming redundant when following quixotic? Someone find that out for me.

At one point, about an hour into the stuttering exchange, he broke down and said “I am tired. I am sick and tired with life.” Maybe it was just a drunk’s lull but I can’t help but think that he was able to be more transparent and honest with me because of the language barrier between us. Since it was so hard to understand each other, he could take the risk of saying what he really felt. The deeply frustrating thing is that I didn’t have the language to respond. I couldn’t tell him there was hope in Russian. I couldn’t explain to him about Jesus being “Bog”. All my little phrasebook could offer me was the equivalent of “Excuse me but I am sorry”.

At the web cafe I am sitting at I got talking to an American academic who is researching a book on the Russian bride industry. He reckons there are about 15 native English speakers in this city of 1.6 million people. This goes someway to explaining why on trains, people invite us to their homes, force pictures of their first born on us, why teenage boys follow us around and why everywhere we go, people treat us with deference. It is not an easy thing to adjust to.

Your Correspondent, Made a deal with the devil so he’ll never get famous.

Decorating the Living Room With Shakira Lyrics

Monday, July 3rd, 2006


The partial library of Zoomtard, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

Moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do. At least that is what “THEY” say. I don’t know which THEY. Does it matter? THEY have the authority to say such things and frankly, from my reaction to your questioning, it should be pretty freaking clear that I am indeed stressed out. The only benefit of moving house is that I got to see where all that money I earned went over the last three years. Into that stupid pile of paper with little parallel lines of black print emblazoned all over them. Neuro and I are in the process of moving into our cardboard mansion, and it’s a good thing too because we were running out of space in that cramped old house we were in that only had three bedrooms.

So yesterday, I heard Dr. Patrick Mitchel preach from Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is one fascinating Bible book by the way. It begins with the refrain,

Meaningless! Meaningless!
All is meaningless!

and goes on to dismiss wisdom and toil and wealth and our lives themselves as nothing but a wisp to be burnt off by the heat of the sun. If there is no God, the Teacher tells us, if we are just living on a ball of rock “under the sun”, then there can be no foundation for our lives that achieves anything but transience. Then at the end he says that thankfully, there is a God and life’s meaning is found in enjoying Him. Weird thing to include in the Bible if it was collated together by a bunch of Bishops in Alexandria or Constantinople or Rome, as the da Vinci Code conspirarists would have it.

So Dr. Mitchel said one thing, kind of in passing, that struck me really hard. He talked about the difference between a tourist and a pilgrim. One of the most popular philosophies applied by people in today is a kind of Epicureanism (not dissimilar to the initial no-God conclusions drawn in Ecclesiastes) that sees life as a holiday and the person as a tourist. Eat the food, savour the sights, take as many photos with your mind as you can and enjoy the fleeting thrill of the connections we can make with fellow travellers until the sun sets on our vacation. For the tourist, the destination counts for everything. No one books a holiday to Melbourne and then looks forward to the long haul flight with a stop-over in Bahrain. As the Teacher puts it, or later, as Paul writes it, if the personal God I claim exists is a figment of my imagination, then we should take this perspective. Eat. Drink. Be merry. Tomorrow we will die.

But the pilgrim is not a tourist. While he is as focused on the destination as the tourist, he is not nearly so anxious about getting there. The pilgrim knows that the journey makes the destination. As Dr. Mitchel preached yesterday, becase the Christian believes that “after the first death, there is no other“, that this life is a measuring up for the life that never ends, we are pilgrims. (Interestingly, the 2nd Vatican Council defined the church as “the pilgrimaging people of God”) We expect holidays to be relaxing, contenting, happy times. We expect pilgrimages to be challenging, awkward, joyous times. The epicurean makes a noble stab at life but one that will be drowned under the pressure of the long, dark nights we all endure. The Christian has an approach to life that absorbs the inevitable and sometimes relentless suffering and can it invest it with meaning and blossom it into joy. (That doesn’t mean, of course, that the Christian always does let the suffering become joy, sadly).

All this makes great sense to me at the moment because tomorrow I leave my wife and our new house with all the work that has to be done on it and fly off to Ukrainia again to the eastern city of Kharkiv. Many people like to call Paris the “Kharkiv of the West”. At least they do in Kharkiv. Kharkiv is famous for having a big square (a very big square, bigger than Red Square in Moscow, allegedly) and a beautiful statue of Lenin and once making more tractors than any other city in the world. It is not a lot to be famous for but then I haven’t told you about the fact that they had the first steel-framed building in the USSR yet, have I?

So for the next three weeks, Zoomtard is on pilgrimage. The timing is crappy. The task ahead is stressful. But I will refuse the temptation to view myself as a tourist and my return home as my destination. I will be busy preaching and teaching and meaching. Meaching is a kind of informal national sport in Ukraine where you eat little pasta sachets filled with potato vodka and try to tilt a parked Lada over with your bum. If anyone really needs me to bring them back some bootleg DVDs, a vintage Dynamo Kyiv jersey, a Cosmonaut suit or a bride, then leave a comment.

Your Correspondent, Is dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep