Archive for the ‘humor’ category

Right on the ball

December 24, 2010

It’s good that people keep up with the news.

Overheard in Dublin yesterday. Three people were standing on the side of the road with placards reading ‘Beep for Gaza’. Two young men were walking past this little protest, and I was behind them. After they had moved on a few yards, this exchange took place.

Young man #1: ‘I wonder what that’s all about.’
Young man #2: ‘Maybe he’s going to be the Ireland manager?’

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My sad fate?

December 6, 2010

Sometimes you can learn things about yourself in emails. Here’s one I received today:

‘Pardon me for not having the pleasure of knowing your mindset before making you this offer and it is utterly confidential and genuine by virtue of its nature.

I write to solicit your assistance in a funds transfer  deal involving US$ 1M.This fund has been stashed out of the money desposited here by formerly respected international figure Ferdinand von Prondzynski, a leading academic now sadly in mental decline. He lodged the sum, which is the value  of his family property, in the Industrial and Commercial Bank which I am the manager. He has no heirs.

I  have already submitted an approved end of the year report for the year 2006 to my head office here in … and they will never know of this sum.

I have since then, placed this amount on a Non-Investment Account without a beneficiary. Upon your response, I will configure your name on our database as holder of the Non-Investment Account.

I will then guide you on how to apply to my head office for the Account Closure/ bank-to-bank remittance of the funds to your designated bank account.

If you concur with this proposal, I intend for you to retain 30% of the funds while 70% shall be for me. Kindly forward your response …’

Ah well, the mental decline bit may of course be true. I wish I did have the funds. And to be honest, I am almost flattered that I have made it to this level of fame. At any rate, this bit of spam gave me a good laugh on a freezing Monday morning.

Topical begging

November 25, 2010

Back in the early 1980s, when there was a major famine in Ethiopia and huge efforts were made globally to raise money to support the victims, an Irish journalist reported seeing a young boy begging in central Dublin, shouting ‘Help the starving in Utopia’. I was reminded of that this morning when I saw a man sitting in a doorway with a piece of paper next to a paper cup reading ‘Support my 4-year recovery plan’. I gave him some funding, though it will not have very significantly front-loaded his recovery.

There is of course a serious side to this, as we must now expect to see an increase in the number of those on the streets and homeless, and we must hope that we are able, as a society, to give some protection to those who become completely marginalised. We fail as a community if we are unwilling to address this.

Telling it as it is, or maybe isn’t, or at any rate something…

November 3, 2010

One of my favourite quotes of all time, by anyone, is footballer Paul Gascoigne’s quite marvelous statement: ‘I never make predictions, and I never will’. As some readers know, I am a fairly devoted football (soccer) fan, but I don’t follow it because of the great literary prowess of the players and commentators. Nevertheless, football seems to bring out the demented philosopher in some of its adherents, and one prediction Gascoigne could safely have made was that there would be much more of this kind of nonsense.

Now it seems we have a new contender for the football gibberish championship, and it’s former Liverpool (and now Inter Milan) manager, Rafael Benitez. Referring to his successor at Liverpool, Roy Hodgson, Benitez delivered himself of the following comment:

‘Some people cannot see a priest on a mountain of sugar’.

Indeed.

Comic sanity

October 31, 2010

Here is something we might find a bit intriguing: a sort-of-political rally in Washington DC organised by two satirists working on comedy shows, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The rally yesterday, which attracted somewhere between 60,000 (estimated by the authorities) and 6 billion (early ‘estimate’ by Stephen Colbert). The rally was, somewhat strangely, billed as a ‘Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear’, partly a satirical reference to rightwing commentator Glen Beck’s ‘Rally to Restore Honor’ in Washington last month.

Apart from the humour and satire, a key message of the organisers was a call to stop political ‘shouting and insults’ and a ‘call to civility’. There is probably a worthwhile message in that for the rest of us outside America also.

Let me entertain you!

July 21, 2010

In his song ‘Let me entertain you’, the singer Robbie Williams suggests that his audience is ‘tired of teachers’ and that ‘school’s a drag’; his remedy is to invite them to be entertained. And of course, entertainment is the idiom of the age, the platform from which a good deal of communication (of even quite serious matters) is disseminated. Entertainment is no longer just diversion from the serious business of life, it is the mainstream.

So it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that an analysis of the qualities that English students seek in their lecturers has revealed that ‘edutainment’ comes high on the list: higher than care for students, and assessment and feedback (though not as high as ‘great teaching’). This goes alongside the trend by which students increasingly use social networking site Facebook as their preferred medium of communication in academic matters.

And in fact, the idea that good teaching should also entertain is not new to me. Letcurers are performers, and one of their tasks is the find methods of communication that get the message across and stimulate the audience into active participation. A good lecture should have something of the music hall about it. But while this comes naturally to some academics, it is quite alien to others. And in any case, entertainment is a skill that needs to be taught and learned.

So I suspect that the academy needs to become serious about entertainment, and to make it part of the methodology of learning. In particular, we need to resist the temptation to see entertainment as cheap and boredom as noble.

Looking to the future

July 12, 2010

Whatever my career may turn out to be like after my present gig is over tomorrow, it will probably be less lucrative than that of Paul the Octopus. Having correctly predicted every match outcome in the world cup on which he was asked to express an opinion,the offers are now streaming in for him.

Mind you, the future is not always bright for those who can predict it. Kelvin McKenzie, the then editor of the Sun newspaper (if you’ll allow me to stretch a point), once famously wrote to the paper’s astrologer as follows: ‘As of course you’ll already know, I have decided to sack you…’

My very best wishes to Paul for his future career.