Rule-Breakers: Why ‘Being There’ Trumps ‘Being Fair’ in Ireland...

There have been many books recently attending to the parlous state of the Irish economy and who’s to blame for it all. Niamh Hourigan, a UCC academic, has tried quite successfully to account for the whole sorry mess by looking at Irish people’s values. In “Rule-Breakers: Why ‘Being There’ Trumps ‘Being Fair’ in Ireland” much of her perspective depends on an understanding of Irish history, in particular our colonial history; but also she concerns herself with human nature, and her realistic approach to blame is welcome. Hourigan’s thesis is basically that the Irish have a tendency to value relationships over rules and that, while this is certainly not a bad thing in every instance, it can cause serious problems, especially economic ones. Colonialism trained the Irish – so the theory goes – to be outwardly complicit in a system that we privately resented. Resisting it offered little in the way of advancement. British treatment of those who objected to Pax Britannica is well-documented. Our perception that the rules were unfair was nonetheless very real, and we subtly circumvented those roles in a myriad ways which can be conveniently enough categorised as favouring relationships over rules. The founding fathers of the State such as de Valera, in league with the Catholic Church, espoused enough respect for rules to provide a reasonably stable state from 1922 onwards. However, prosperity was unforthcoming until the 1960s and it came with add-ons that helped sew the seed for the crisis in 2008. In the early few decades of the State, votes were earned through favours; latterly favours were bartered for money. “State capture” is the changing of the rules (rather than simply bending or breaking them) to facilitate these elites. Much of this is of course predicated on relationships –...

JIMMY’S HALL BY GRAHAM HARRINGTON Apr02

JIMMY’S HALL BY GRAHAM HARRINGTON...

I recently viewed the 2014 film “Jimmy’s Hall” directed by Ken Loach (“The Wind that shakes the Barley,” Hidden Agenda,” “Land And Freedom.”) The film centres on the rather remarkable real-life story of Jimmy Gralton. Gralton (played by Barry Ward) was a communist political and social activist from Leitrim who was, shall we say, “disliked” by the conservative authorities in his home parish in 1930s Ireland. Gralton established a hall where young people could meet, dance, discuss topics and be educated. The local clergy viewed it as a hotspot for communist propaganda, with young people reading things such as Connolly’s “Labour In Irish History” and other Marxist texts. The local priest, Fr.Sheridan (played by yer man Bishop Brennan) rallies the local Blueshirts (a fascist movement operating in Ireland during the ’30s) and property owners against Gralton’s hall. The names of the attendees of the dances and sessions at the hall are read out at Mass, which leads to a horrific scene concerning the brutal nature of the local Blueshirt O’Keefe. At one stage, the hall is attacked and shots are even fired into it by the Blueshirts despite people being inside. The film can be seen as a case study of Ireland during this period.It was a time of polarisation, repression, transformation and uncertainty. In my favourite scene, a group of IRA men come to Gralton and ask him to use his charisma to help them support a tenant and his family who are being evicted by their landlord. There is a large crowd present and the landlord is scared off; Jimmy then makes an impassioned speech to the crowd. This scene is meant to show the opposing viewpoints of the increasingly left-leaning IRA at the time and the as ever conservative Church. Later...

“Hitch 22” by Christopher Hitchens...

The late Christopher Hitchens’ memoirs “Hitch 22” is a beast of a read. It’s possibly the densest forest of references and allusions I’ve ever encountered. Keeping even a modicum of composure while sliding down that jungle mud path, hacking not infrequently at vegetation to facilitate one’s progress, is quite a challenge. Th vocabulary alone is voluminous. It’s best to read it on kindle since you will need the dictionary often, that is if you are interested to know quite what he’s saying. My vocabulary builder has almost 500 words now and I would confidently assert that a full half of the entries derive from Hitchens. Words like “boondocks,” “caudillo,” “rebarbative,” “regnant” and “dreck” all make an appearance. Many of them are from French and can no doubt be dropped into conversation to impress interlocutors: “soi-disant,” “demi-monde,” “aperçus,” “embarras de choix” could each one day be just the “mot juste” you were looking for. No doubt Hitchens is a challenge, a rewarding one. His life was hectic and his energy for ideas and debate was extraordinary. He went far and wide to explore the issues of his day and was as close to fearless as any writer can reasonably be expected to be. He seems to have had a deep suspicion of, if not outright dislike for, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton. And, now that I think of it, he suffered an early trauma like so many other authors: his mother left his father and ended up taking her own life. He drank a lot and smoked too. He was excessive in so much, his perceptiveness in particular. He remembers his father saving a little girl in a pool and her father’s “undisguised rage and hatred” at having had his neglect broadcast. His affection for other...

“Homage to Catalonia” by George Orwell #3...

Why was Orwell doing this when he didn’t have to? The reason can found in sentences such as this one: “It was an extraordinary life that we were living – an extraordinary way to be at war, if you could call it a war.” The first reason given is that it was extraordinary, and like any writer, he was drawn to that. He saw the extraordinary as a challenge to his intellect, his body and as a vocation. In his essay, Why I Write, Orwell’s searingly honest about what makes a writer: “[T]here is a minority of gifted, wilful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centred than journalists, though less interested in money.” This is as bad as it gets with Orwell; the other reasons are far more laudable and inspiring. He felt the urge to find truth wherever he went; he calls it an “historical impulse”; and there’s also the “political purpose”, very much evident in Homage. He wrote: “The Spanish war and other events in 1936-7 turned the scales and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against [italics] totalitarianism and for [italics] Socialism.” Then he writes something truly beautiful, something which somehow captures the essence of what it is to be a writer but also to be fully human: “So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.” He explains his reason for writing...

“Homage to Catalonia” by George Orwell #2...

The experience of battle was frustrating. The enemy came last in a list of priorities which included firewood, food and tobacco; Orwell lived to smoke: in The Road to Wigan Pier he derides those who refuse to smoke in order to prolong their lives by a few years. And smoking is a good way to kill the boredom of trench warfare. In Sebastian Junger’s fabulous journalistic treatise on the war in Afghanistan – an heir to Homage in many ways- the physicians sometimes tell non-smoker grunts to start the habit to keep sane. And how boring it must have been when, for a start you rarely saw the enemy and when you did, they were too far away to kill with a gun. Orwell writes with compassion and wisdom. On the subject of maintaining discipline in the ranks he has this to say: “When a man refused to obey an order you did not immediately get him punished; you first appealed to him in the name of comradeship. Cynical people with no experience of handling men will say instantly that this will never ‘work’,  but as a matter of fact it does ‘work’ in the long run.” Militia forces held the front line against the fascists while the Popular Army was preparing for war in the rear; the militiamen were very young and indisciplined but did seem motivated by a sense of solidarity and idealism. A revolutionary army, Orwell reckoned, would stay the course out of a sense of class solidarity while fear is required to motivate a regular one. It was all the better because the resistance had no time to waste; they had to do something to check Franco because, had they waited to recruit and train a regular army, Franco would...

“Homage to Catalonia” by George Orwell #1...

I was starting “Homage” for the second time, this time while in Catalunya, Barcelona in fact. I’d forgotten much of it and so found myself enjoying it in unexpected ways, rediscovering it anew. Orwell eschewed a life of privilege in England to live the life of a writer; he understood that a great writer can’t fake it. That’s not to say invention is the same as lying; rather experience is the cradle of invention, but there is little invention needed here. Orwell went to Spain in December 1936 “with some notion of writing newspaper articles, but [he] joined the militia almost immediately.” In a mode reminiscent of the French Revolution, Barcelona then was in the hands of the working class and “Nobody said ‘Señor’ or ‘Don’ or even ‘Usted’; everyone called everyone else ‘Comrade’ and ‘Thou’, and said ‘Salud!’ instead of ‘Buenos Dias’ “. He found this atmosphere extraordinary and moving. Although he didn’t fully understand it, he nevertheless felt it was something worth fighting for. Yet, there was “the evil atmosphere of war.” Orwell was stationed at the Lenin Barracks, captured from the Fascists the previous July. Conditions were poor, not just because of the smells of “horse-piss and rotten oats” but also because food was being wasted, something which bothered Orwell greatly, given that the general population was hungry. Their uniforms were thrown together, more like “multiforms” he says. Many of the recruits were boys – sixteen or seventeen – and there was little military discipline. Even though he and the others were being readied to go to the front to kill Franco’s fascists, their training was laughable: “[T]his mob of eager children, who were going to be thrown into the front line in a few days’ time, were not even taught...

American Sniper by Daniel Dilworth Feb19

American Sniper by Daniel Dilworth...

One of the biggest films so far this year, it’s been raking in the money, and, no, I’m not talking about the shite that is Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m talking about American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s latest offering as director and starring Bradley Cooper as the sniper Chris Kyle and Sienna Miller as his wife, Taya. The film chronicles the life of Kyle and picks up pace when the character watches the 9/11 attacks on television. He decides to join the army and soon is shipped off to Iraq. There, he notches up around 160 kills over four tours of duty but his greatest moment comes when he snipes an insurgent sniper from over 2000 yards away. Cooper does a fine job at his portrayal of Kyle, and Miller does well as the long-suffering wife. As the film goes on, however, it looks less and less like a film worthy of its Oscar-nominations and more like a US Army propaganda video. Kyle’s deployment to Iraq is non-sequitur with the 9/11 attacks – more footage, besides those of the army training, should’ve been included. The ending of the film, featuring a montage of clips from Kyle’s actual funeral and subsequent memorial service, are cringe-worthy above all else. There is also the criticism that Eastwood has created a one-dimensional story with little to no regard for Iraqi characters and even glorifies the violence for the benefit of the proud citizens of Murica. In short, this is an average film and, should it take the Best Picture award next week, will be a very mediocre...

The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson...

Boris Johnson’s new biography of Winston Churchill could be read to an intelligent child before bedtime or by a curious teenager who remembered that George Bush borrowed a bronze bust of Churchill for his presidency. Most independent readers will find it easy going because the message is clear: Churchill was great; but more than that, he wasn’t quite the way he is depicted nowadays, even by his supporters. The Churchill that emerges from these pages is a prodigious writer and reader, soldier, politician (obviously), journalist, husband, father, wit, ambitious and pragmatic operator as well as ridiculously prolific producer of memos, policy documents, commentary on any manner of issues, the inventor of the tank (they’re called tanks because the military tried to keep their precise purpose secret by describing them as water tanks for troops) and…you get the idea. Johnson sets out to take in turn every conceivable criticism of WSC and turn it upside down as you would a dustbin full of blasphemous printed scorn and, after pimping it to resemble a lever-arch folder, refill it with corrections, more accurate accounts and maybe excuses too, not to mention sentimental anecdotes and in fairness the odd admission. There’s little doubt the great one had his faults to which he himself admitted. He was narcissistic and self-assured, reckless and rude, exploitative and contemptuous of party politics. Ironically, this last accusation is an asset in politicians now. Much of what he said would not fly nowadays, especially in uber PC Britain. But the thing about Churchill was that he had enormous personality and, if Johnson is right, compassion and vision to boot. He had it all, kind of – a bit of family dysfunction and depression colours a historical figure, though the book claims his black dog...

CSN is 50: Review of “And Quiet Flows the Don” by Graham Harrington (Winner) Nov19

CSN is 50: Review of “And Quiet Flows the Don” by Graham Harrington (Winner)...

Mikhail Sholokhov’s masterpiece And Quiet flows the Don is a novel that has stood the test of time.The book was written in the late 1920s/ early 1930s era Soviet Union and is a classic example of a Socialist Realism artwork. It has transcended contemporary cultural and geo-political obstacles to be loved by East and West alike. It has won both the Stalin Prize (1941) and the Nobel Prize (1965), the opposing forces of Capitalism and Communism both sharing in its omniprescent beauty. The novel tells the tale of the Cossack people living on the Don River through the ever-fluctuating fortunes of the Melekhov family who live in the village of Tatarsk in the early 20th Century. The protagonist, Gregor “Grishka” Melekhov, is a young cossack filled with dreams of glory, wealth and beautiful women. His boring life as a farm hand turns into an exciting adventure when he begins an affair with the wife of a local cossack man, the sultry Aksinia. Life does not go well for the lovers – their affair is discovered and, in an attempt to restore the honour of both families, Gregor is forced into a loveless marriage with a local girl, Natalia Korshunov, while Aksinia is beaten for her insubordination. Eventually, what we now call World War One breaks out and Gregor is summoned to the front but he deserts leaving his new wife and family behind and, taking advantage of her husband being at war, elopes with his former lover Aksinia. He settles with her in the home of a friendly nobleman and they begin a life together, away from war and have a child. The war catches up with them however and Gregor is enlisted with a Cossack regiment. This is where the novel’s narrative and...

CSN is 50: Review of “In the Penal Colony” by Cormac Mee Nov19

CSN is 50: Review of “In the Penal Colony” by Cormac Mee...

The idea of reviewing a work such as In The Penal Colony, of a sixteen-year-old finding flaw with and attempting to analyse a work of this complexity is comical. I’m not attempting to rate it; I’m not attempting to suggest ways that this piece could be improved. When I first read this novella I was captivated by what I understood but, more so from what I perceived lurking just behind the surface, I knew that to gain a true understanding of this work I would have to reread it, not just to read but to attempt to study the writer’s intent, the message the writer wanted to relay about society as a whole and about the barbarism of blindly following orders and tradition. A traveller, an outsider who visits a strange land with customs that appear ancient, is invited by an officer to witness the execution of a commended soldier. This officer seems infatuated with the age-old, impossibly complex machine that enacts a brutal idea of justice on those who are deemed guilty. The practice of execution is slowly falling out of fashion; there was a time when these executions captured the imagination of all of the people in this small island, a time when people would celebrate and congregate to watch a list of a man’s crimes being carved into his very flesh until he fell into a state of absolution and died supposedly absolved of all sin. This is a running motif in Franz Kafka’s work: suffering being enjoyed by the masses. In the story The Hunger Artist the eponymous artist starves himself in front of an adoring and fascinated public – although as time passes fewer and fewer people have any interest in his dubious art. This parallels the people of...

CSN is 50: Review of “13 Reasons Why” by Stephen Fogarty Nov19

CSN is 50: Review of “13 Reasons Why” by Stephen Fogarty...

If you consume fiction in anyway you will inevitably come across what I have come to call “the void,” a stasis where after finishing some truly great film or television show for example, you are plunged into a mini depression (think sitting on a park bench feeding birds as violin music plays softly in the background). If you are from my generation then you will probably have had this once you finished reading Harry Potter but it’s a feeling I have come across a few times and it has always followed something great; it is a sign that I have found something special, and today I present to you one of these rare stories: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Not long after the suicide of American high school student Hannah Baker, her fellow student Clay Jensen receives seven cassette tapes (two sides each) in the mail. These tapes – recorded by Hannah – contain the names and stories of the 13 people whose actions pushed her to take her own life (hence the title). These tapes also contained the instructions to pass them along; the tapes where originally sent to number 1 on the list who sent it to number 2 and so on. One of the great strengths of the book is the characterisation of Hannah Baker. In the hands of a less skilled writer she might have been too cheery and funny in an attempt to get the reader to like her more, or too morose making it harder for the reader to relate. The balance between these two is struck perfectly and while yes, she isn’t just completely and utterly depressed, you don’t forget for a second that this is a deeply troubled young woman. And really this is the...

Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Cian Morey...

“I want you to believe.” “To believe what?” “To believe in things that you cannot.” The term “classic” is thrown around a lot these days. It seems almost every day there is a new “classic” popping up somewhere in the world of literature, film or television. I doubt that many of these supposedly “classic” works meet the criteria for “something that is judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality of its kind”. Insufficient time has elapsed for the “new classic” books that are springing up everywhere to be considered on one level with Shakespeare or Dickens. Dracula, an 1897 novel by Bram Stoker is a true classic; moreover it’s the definitive tale of vampirism. Dracula is particularly notable for creating the traditional concept of a vampire, which Bram Stoker achieves by taking the scattered traits set out in earlier works and twining them together to form the iconic Count Dracula who drinks blood, creates other “undead” monsters, can turn into a bat and speaks with an unnerving Eastern-European accent. But, at least for me, the Count was not the most interesting part of the novel, nor was he really present in the main bulk of the story. Instead, Bram Stoker spends the first half of the book weaving an intricate mystery around the Count’s motives and various suspicious incidents in London, without clearly revealing how they all tie together until the second half. Those of you who were looking forward to reading an action-packed scare-your-pants-off bloodbath will most likely be disappointed. The best part of the book is the depiction of Victorian society (or societies). As it was written in 1897, it paints a far more authentic picture of the world at that time (obviously) than anything produced nowadays....

DOCTOR WHO: DEEP BREATH by Cian Morey Aug27

DOCTOR WHO: DEEP BREATH by Cian Morey...

“I’m the Doctor. I’ve lived for over two thousand years, and not all of them were good. I’ve made many mistakes. It’s time I did something about that.” This review contains spoilers. It was difficult to keep them out, as there were some things that I absolutely had to praise but unfortunately happened to be the same things that anyone who hasn’t seen the episode should most certainly not know in advance. So if you have come to this page in the hope that you will finally have located a spoiler-free review (they’re hard to come by, now that the episode’s been officially broadcast) – sorry to disappoint you. Stop reading now. Spoilers abound. Just over a year ago, Peter Capaldi was unveiled to the world as the latest actor to take on that iconic role of the Doctor… and not many people knew who he was. The first reaction was of course “Good God, he’s old”, which was a startling (but in my opinion good and inevitable) change from the handsome young boyfriend Doctors that were numbers 10 and 11 (or maybe 11 and 12 – courtesy of Steven Moffat and “The Day of the Doctor”, nobody has a clue anymore). The internet was teeming for the next year with speculation, criticism, occasional praise and special blogs whose creators had done their best to unearth as much information about this Scottish, grandfatherly nobody who had seemingly popped up from nowhere to savagely break traditions and ruin the show for many die-hard fans of Matt Smith’s era. However, people soon discovered that Mr Capaldi had appeared twice before in the Whoniverse, as Lobus Caecilius in the 2008 episode “The Fires of Pompeii” and as John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth. When Peter Capaldi’s casting was announced, I had just...

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY by Cian Morey Aug16

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY by Cian Morey...

Well, well, well. In yet another attempt to satiate the ever-growing hunger for action-packed comic book blockbusters bursting at the seams with more explosions than a game of suicide Minesweeper, Marvel has brought us Guardians of the Galaxy. And what an action-packed seam-bursting blockbuster it is. The plot is this (I think): Peter Quill, a space-pirating anti-hero, stumbles upon an orb on an abandoned planet which, unbeknownst to him, is sought after by the fanatical alien Ronan and other space pirates. This is because it contains an Infinity Stone, an artifact (or should I say MacGuffin?) of immeasurable power that can bulldoze entire planets in seconds flat. After a fight with Gamora, Ronan’s green-skinned assassin who has been sent to seize the orb, Peter Quill is captured and imprisoned, along with Gamora, a mutant anthropomorphic racoon called Rocket and a tree called Groot that can say its name, but nothing else. It is revealed that Gamora is in fact attempting to betray Ronan by selling the orb for a significant sum, and so Quill, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and another inmate called Drax the Destroyer unite to escape the prison and claim the reward for the orb, only to be entangled in a greater conflict and forced to play their part as the unlikely Guardians of the Galaxy. I must admit it took me a long time to write that plot summary and turned out longer than I had hoped, and that is because the plot is, undoubtedly, over-complicated. After a shockingly harrowing scene at the beginning, the film seems to start again in a far lighter mood, and kicks off as a planet-hopping roller-coaster of chaos that can certainly be quite enjoyable, as long as one suspends both disbelief and hopes of a proper,...

Live and Let Die Aug01

Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die used to be my favourite Bond movie, but while seeing it again only the other day I found myself irritated by how often the bad guys could have killed Bond but inexplicably chose not to, or rather decided on ill-advised, over-elaborate and far-from-fool-proof encounters with extreme physical harm instead, when a bullet between the eyes would have sufficed. Now, of course I know that the real reason Bond never dies even though his not-so-mortal enemies have ample opportunity to dispose of him is because it’s written in the script. But yet, that script is supposed, to a reasonably plausible degree – even for Ian Fleming – to represent reality. It seems that Mr Big just isn’t serious about killing Bond. He has him dead to rights at least five times in the movie and insists on these ridiculous machinations. He cuts Bond’s forearm and suspends 007 and Solitaire over a tank of sharks. You see, sharks are very sensitive to blood and can smell it from miles away. He never imagines that Bond has a wristwatch with a circular saw. He has Bond trapped in a secret room but chooses instead to take him outside into a public alleyway to shoot him, where predictably Bond cleverly uses a fire escape ladder to bludgeon his foe. The most ridiculous scene is probably the one in which Mr Big explodes because he obligingly swallows a compressed air pellet fed to him by Bond – but there’s no blood, skin, flesh or anything left of Mr Big except shreds of clothes. Maybe Mr Big was just a balloon all along, and men led by a balloon can’t be effective assassins, let’s be realistic. The best thing about Live and Let Die is not even the huge black...

Phone Booth by Cian Morey Jul18

Phone Booth by Cian Morey...

Your life is on the line. Phone Booth is an obscure but excellent psychological thriller film (yes, another one, I know…) directed by Joel Schumacher, the *ahem* genius behind Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. But that’s for a different kind of review. Phone Booth stars Colin Farrell in one of his early roles as Stu Sheppard, an arrogant New York publicist who has been seeing a young woman called Pam behind his wife’s back. When Stu uses the last remaining phone booth in the city to contact Pam without his wife knowing, he receives a call from an anonymous sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) who holds him hostage in the phone booth and demands that he reveal the truth to Pam and his wife. Phone Booth is gripping within the first five minutes. I have always been a fan of “claustrophobic movies”, films which take place almost entirely within one, usually small, location (Rear Window, The Others) and Phone Booth is one of the best of that type. The concept itself is very good, but the way the story unfolds is even better, with, in my opinion, an infuriating ending. It’s one of those “everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong” movies, and it is spectacularly tense. Colin Farrell and Kiefer Sutherland are both perfect choices for their roles. Overall, this movie is based around a brilliantly tense concept and it unfolded in the best way possible, with very good acting. I wouldn’t quite say that Schumacher should be forgiven for the catastrophe that was his Batman movies, but Phone Booth was really...

I CAN MAKE YOU HATE

Charlie Brooker is an angry man. Charlie Brooker is an angry man…angry and funny…very funny. His book I Can Make You Hate is about encouraging you to hate even more all the things you had already been giving consideration to hating more – like politicians and bad TV. Now you have an advocate and a friend; once you’ve paid the €20 you can hate to your heart’s content like you always wanted to. Like I said, Charlie Brooker is an angry man…and funny…very funny. The cover of my prized hardback edition features a gilded note: “Includes Words and Punctuation.” On the back you have more pre-opening fun: “Only a pr*** wouldn’t buy this book. Don’t be that PR***.” See, punctuation ‘n’ all, just like he promised. One last chuckle before you’ve even begun to read what’s inside: “Does not contain free weight-loss, self-esteem and instant happiness CD.” Oh yeah, I forgot: “The potential all-time No.1 bestseller.” This book has the funniest cover of any book ever; that’s why I bought it. The cover is a lot funnier than it may seem to you right now; it’s got lots more funny bits that I haven’t yet mentioned but am just about to, like where it says this: “…if you’d like to read something that alternates between ‘funny’ and ‘angry’ like a drunk clown at a divorce hearing, keep holding this book. Ideally, pay for it on your way home.” Now, let’s open the book and see what else we can choke with laughter in response to! But before the laughter, here’s some anger: “Sleep is overrated. According to experts, it is as important to your health as exercise, nutrition and not being set on fire…All you have to do is lie around doing nothing for...

The Simpsons: Episode 397 – “Crook and Ladder” Jun28

The Simpsons: Episode 397 – “Crook and Ladder”...

In an episode of The Simpsons, Marge receives the latest edition of her “Smothering Mothers” subscription which features an article that asks if her child may be a suckaholic: “Growing up is about giving up everything that makes you happy.” Grandpa agrees, telling Marge that the doctors are warning him off raisins. Homer sees an ad on TV for Nappien, a sleeping pill. He, in typical fashion, jumps at the opportunity to get a good night’s sleep and incontinently ingests the philtre. Nothing. It’s a con, a sugar pill, snake oil? But no. Odd things begin to happen. He makes a domino rally with the family’s supply of videotapes. The drug elicits quotable laments like this: “Aw, I have three kids and no money! Why can’t I have no kids and three money?” Homer’s behaviour becomes even more erratic, though Bart isn’t too concerned: “Why am I sleeping when right next door is every boy’s dream: a fat, suggestible zombie dad?” There follows a zombie montage introduced Homer himself. Hilarity ensues of course. Street hooligans use him as a punchbag; he gives Milhouse a zombie haircut which comprises exclusively of a swathe of number 1 over the right ear. Anyway, my point is obvious: like it or love it, yes, The Simpsons is genius. Take this little interplay: Moe: “Lousy civilians…I wish I could burn ’em all!” Mayor Quimby: “Easy there, Fire Chief Moe.” Like so much else, it looks easy once it’s written....