Tag Archives: religion

When Gay Met God

Famous Twitter user, Apple enthusiast and idiot’s thinking man Stephen Fry was this week the subject of slightly more inane internet chatter than usual as his verbose response to a theological question described a graceful arc amidst a profusion of beheadings, Ebola and water protestors, to the top of whatever collective noun is used for viral videos.

The video of Fry saying some words had stiff competition in the online news world from another which featured the fiancée of a tennis player saying some words, but the internet quickly decided that the former was far better suited to sharing on social media in lieu of opinions, especially when paired with accompanying epithets such as “Legend!” or “What a hero!”.

Videos such as this have begun to permeate and even dominate the colloquium of internet news in recent times; indeed why waste time writing lengthy articles outlining opinions and facts when the words “Watch What Happened when Noun Verb Noun” carry such inherent journalistic weight?

Given the video’s proliferation and the somewhat unflattering nature of Fry’s words concerning the individual known as God, it seemed natural to expect a reaction from the maligned party. And so it came to pass that on this week’s episode of The Meaning of Life, Gay Byrne sat down with God himself to discuss the issue, and many others besides. The following are excerpts taken from that interview.

~

Gay: Hello, and welcome to a very special episode of The Meaning of Life. My guest tonight has, quite literally, seen and done it all. It is of course, our Lord and Creator, God. Welcome, God. Can I call you God?

God: Of course Gay, and thanks for having me. Sorry I’m a bit late, I had to appear in a cracker in Guatemala.

– Understandable, no problem at all.

– And before we begin I have to say I’m a big fan. I never missed an episode of The Late Late when you were presenting. Of course I’m omniscient so I never miss anything.

– Of course.

– The new fella though, I don’t really care for him. I know I’m supposed to love you all equally but it’s hard sometimes, you know?

– I can imagine. So let’s get right into it then God. What do you think of Stephen Fry? Do you like him?

– Well I followed him on Twitter there a while ago, but he never followed me back. I tried to add him on Facebook too but he blocked me. It’s like he refuses to acknowledge my existence. It’s a bit mean really, I was a bit upset about it.

– From what I hear this story goes back further than his comments last week on this show.

– Yeah, there was an incident at the BAFTAs a few years back. He was presenting them for the first time and he was a bit nervous. I was there obviously, because I’m everywhere, as you know.

– Naturally.

– So anyway, I had been drinking Schnapps all night with Jason Isaacs and Helen Mirren, and we got a bit raucous. We started shouting stuff at Stephen, innocent enough stuff to begin with, but then Helen took it up a level, and I didn’t stop it.

– So you were heckling him?

– I’m not proud of it. Those were some difficult years for me, kind of a mid-life crisis I suppose. I filled his dressing room with locusts after the show too, just for a laugh. Made the walls drip blood, that kind of thing. It was around that time he started to ignore me. I suppose I can’t blame him.

– He called you a capricious bully last week. How did that make you feel?

– Look Gay, don’t go all Oprah on me now. This isn’t Sinead O’Connor you’re talking to. Deities aren’t comfortable talking about their feelings, that’s more of a mortal thing.

– Okay, let’s talk about the book. It’s coming out next month, is that right?

– That’s right yeah, that’s what I’m here to talk about really.

– Why did you feel that now was the time for an autobiography? Do you feel your life’s work is mostly behind you now?

– Not at all Gay, it’s more that I’m sick of being misrepresented by that other book. I mean, that’s not the real me, you know.

– So this one’s called Stairway from Heaven. It’s a nice title, why did you choose it?

– I suppose I wanted to let people know that I’m not always just sitting up in my ivory tower, that I’m down here on Earth with my people too.

– Do you actually have an ivory tower up there?

– It’s a metaphor Gay. I told you before the show Heaven was off limits. Why would you bring it up?

– You’re right, I’m sorry. So what kind of time period does the book cover? Do you go right back to the start, back to your childhood?

– I don’t really get into it in too much detail, my childhood was fairly ordinary.

– Ordinary?

– Yes.

– Eh, okay…so the book is twelve thousand pages long. Did you think of trimming it down a bit?

– My editor at Penguin kept telling me it was too long, until I smote him. Look there’s a lot to tell, it’s 14 billion years we’re talking about here. My first draft was a page per year, so it’s been cut down a lot as it is.

– I’m sorry, just to go back, when you say ‘smote’?…

– It was a joke, Gay. I do have a sense of humour you know.

– Ha, of course. Good one, God.

– Okay, don’t go all Jonathan Ross on it Gay. Let’s move on.

– Let’s talk about the new Pope. What do you think of him?

– Hmmm. He’s alright I suppose, a bit soft maybe but that’s the modern world for you. Stephen VI, now he could pope with the best of them. Mad as a brush of course, but some man for the craic all the same.

– So Pope Francis isn’t much fun then? Do you talk often?

– I try to keep it professional, send him the odd memo about this or that. He’s a bit too friendly though, he keeps sending me links to YouTube videos and inviting me to play Candy Crush Saga.

– You don’t like the game?

– It’s not that I don’t like it Gay, it wouldn’t be fair for me to play it. I’d win every time. Because I’m omnipotent, you see.

– I see, of course. So before we finish God, can you give us any hints as to what the future holds in store for mankind?

– Well, something big’s going to go down in the year 3196, but I can’t say much beyond that without giving it away.

– Okay, you can’t give us anything a bit more short-term?

– That’s the blink of an eye in cosmic terms Gay.

– Of course, of course. Well, I’ll let you go God, I know you’re busy.

– Thanks Gay, I’ve to get back up there or the young lad’ll have the place wrecked. Take it easy, see you soon. Not too soon says you, ha?

– Ha, thanks again God.

(God disappears with a loud bang, leaving just a puff of white smoke)

– Well, that’s all for this week. Join us next time when we’ll be talking to the prophet Muhammad about privacy in the modern age. Until then, good night and God bless.

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Ode to Osama

In the wake of the recent Kenyan shopping centre attack, much opprobrium centred on the alleged role of a 29-year old British woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, or ‘The White Widow’, the somewhat derivative but admittedly catchy sobriquet bestowed on her. Lewthwaite was married to 7 July 2005 suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay, and is currently wanted by Interpol in relation to suspected terrorist activity.

After raiding her house in Mombasa, Kenya recently, detectives found a laptop that betrayed a long history of research into chemicals and bomb making. They also found a 34-line elegiac poem to the deceased al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the full text of which can be found here.

This fulsome ode in honour of a murderous terrorist has, unsurprisingly, outraged Britain’s conservative media. As a response, and in order to evoke the average Briton’s take on such an unpalatable affair, the Daily Mail recently organised its own poetry compilation, accepting submissions from ordinary people around the country on the subjects of bin Laden, religious extremism, and modern, multicultural Britain.

Below is an extract from the collection of poems, with observations by the renowned Mail columnist Richard LittleEngland, an effusive, outspoken commentator known for his traditional values and moral fortitude.

~

Hello, and welcome to the inaugural Daily Mail poetry compendium. We’ve been inundated with responses from people who love their country and their way of life. Reading your entries has made me even prouder than usual to be British. Below is just a small flavour of the poems we’ve received, with brief analysis from yours truly, Richard LittleEngland.

(P.S. Don’t forget, my new book, No Thanks, We’re Full: The Real ‘Big Issue’ of Our Time is available to buy in all good bookshops from next Monday.)

~

There once was a menacing sheikh
Who had the inordinate cheek
To proclaim his disdain
With a couple of planes
But the Yanks put an end to his clique

Trevor, Middlesex

Excellent work, Trevor. He was a cheeky old sod alright, wasn’t he? I always think of limericks as the lost art form.

~

Go home ragheads,
We don’t want you here
20 quid to the airport?
I’ll get a white driver next time
But I still like curry

John, Barnsley

Well…that’s a courageous use of the free verse technique John, I’ll give you that. Moving on…

~

The fire of Islam
Hot embers slip through the grate
It’s smoky in here

Quentin, Cambridge

Nice haiku, Quentin. A bit highbrow though, don’t you think? Try not to show off so much.

~

The boy from Riyadh, a gun in his hand,
Knew no other course but that of martyr
The infidel had raped his land,
From ancient Maghreb to modern Jakarta

Armed by those he wished to destroy,
He held his hand and played their pawn
Within him burned a latent ploy,
He would enact before the dawn

And on young minds his words did prey,
His lecture holding them in thrall
Until he sent them on their way,
As New York summer turned to fall

But monsters thus are never born,
And not for nothing was his scorn

Rob, Edinburgh

Eh, I think you’ve missed the point here Rob. Don’t you love your country? Or are you a Communist? Come on people, let’s get back on message…

~

Muslims in my corner shop,
Muslims on my street
Muslims wearing silly dresses,
Muslims in bare feet
Muslims taking all our jobs,
Muslims on the social,
Muslims fucking everywhere,
Muslims by the bowlful,
Muslims.

Lee, Bradford

Great stuff Lee, that’s more like it. I especially liked the part about the Muslims.

~

Whence this veiled threat?
Kabul? Khartoum? Or simply Kaboom?

East, West, Yin or Yang?
Josiah, Sharia, Qu’ran or Kerrang?

We offend the effendi,
A jihad he had

Fat chance a fatwa
From distant Islamabad

Will Allah wither
Or whither Allah?

Sunni or Sunnah
In sunny Caliphornia?

Stephen, London

Eh…it’s a bit esoteric, isn’t it Steve? That’s not even how you spell California. You bloody public schoolboys are too clever for your own good. 

~

An angel’s smile is what you sell
You promised me Heaven, then put me through Hell
Chains of love got a hold on me
When passion’s a prison, you can’t break free

Osama, you’re a loaded gun
Osama, there’s nowhere to run
No one can save you
The damage is done

Shot through the heart
And you’re to blame
You gave Islam a bad name (bad name)
I played my part and you played your game
You gave Islam a bad name (bad name)
Yeah, you gave Islam, a bad name

Deborah, Swansea

Bravo Deborah, a tour de force. Although it seems slightly familiar to me, I hope it’s all your own work?

~

And so ends our poetic celebration of Britain. Let this stand as a testament of our resolve in the face of political correctness and multiculturalism gone mad. Join us next week in the Arts and Culture section, when we’ll be seeking submissions of paintings and sculptures that capture the failings of the NHS.


Pope Springs Eternal

It was after midnight and Joseph Ratzinger was sitting alone in the darkened living room of his cavernous residence. He sat reclining in a regal armchair, wearing a crisp white robe of the finest silk, his red slippers perched in front of the softly glowing embers of the fire. The slow orange flicker of the fireplace illuminated his weathered face, his wrinkled brow furrowed, his pale eyes fixed listlessly on the dying flames. He coughed intermittently into his handkerchief, his breathing becoming heavier and more laboured each time.

It had been almost a year since the erstwhile Pope had relinquished his duties, aware that his earthly existence would soon be coming to a close. Though satisfied that he had lived a pious and virtuous life, and proud of his tenure presiding over the Church, he was nonetheless troubled by a vague sense of unease. The source of this disquiet was unknown to him, and it preyed particularly heavily on his mind this night.

As the fire finally spluttered and faded into a thin column of grey smoke, the Pope emeritus rose tentatively from his chair to retire for the night. As he stood up he felt a sudden chill sweep through the room from the open window, followed by a brief but brilliant flash of white light. Momentarily stunned, Ratzinger squinted towards the window and saw the figure of a man standing there, bathed in an ethereal blue glow.

Joseph dropped to his knees and looked up with awe at the spirit, bewildered into silence at his appearance.

‘Your Holiness,’ the spectre addressed him.

The figure spoke in a gentle but indefinable voice, his tone at once commanding and comforting. He walked over to Ratzinger and laid a ghostly hand on his frail shoulder.

‘I am the Ghost of Popes Past. I have come to take you on a journey.’

Before Joseph could respond, there was another blinding flash of light, and when he opened his eyes he was no longer in his living room.

Ratzinger recognised his surroundings instantly. He was standing in the library of the University of Munich, where he had studied theology as a young man. He gazed around in wonder, recalling the countless hours he had spent immersed in this magnificent collection of manuscripts. Across the room he recognised the figure hunched over a cluttered pile of books. He approached the table and looked down in astonishment at his own face, hardly twenty years old. The young Joseph pored over an ancient book of scripture, his face rapt with concentration as he painstakingly transcribed the text into a notebook.

The elderly Ratzinger looked up to notice a librarian crossing the floor towards the young scholar. The sound of her footsteps echoed throughout the great hall as she approached, clutching a heavy tome to her chest with one hand. With the other she reached up and pulled her long, black hair back over her shoulder, revealing her soft, porcelain features. Her gaze was fixed on the young scholar, peering at him with a pair of shimmering blue eyes that Joseph had not seen in some sixty years.

‘I found what you were looking for, Joseph,’ she whispered softly.

The young man looked up at her and smiled warmly, taking the book from her hands.

‘Ah, thank you Angela.’

The elder Joseph stood captivated at the sight of the young woman, long-forgotten memories flooding back to him. He and Angela had grown up on the same street, and had been inseparable from a young age. Then the war came and a teenage Joseph was conscripted into the army. Upon resuming his studies after peace was declared, he found that Angela had taken a job at the library, and they were reunited. But the war had taken its toll on a generation of young men like Joseph, and the carefree, mischievous boy she once knew had never returned.

She continued to stand at his side, watching furtively over his shoulder.

‘I…I finish in an hour Joseph. I thought we might go skating down at the lake? You always did love to show off on the ice.’

She chuckled softly to herself at the memory of the cold winter days they spent together as children, skating down the river despite the warnings of their parents, her freezing hand clutched tightly in his.

The young Joseph glanced up to meet her gaze,

‘I’m sorry Angela, I just have too much work to do.’

Her warm smile faltered for a brief moment, then returned.

‘No problem,’ she replied.

‘I’ll see you later, Joseph.’

With that, she turned and headed back to her desk, the young Ratzinger already absorbed in his studies once more. The elderly Joseph felt compelled to follow her, and matched her quick pace across the marble floor.

When she sat down she turned to stare wistfully across the room at the young Joseph for a moment, then sighed heavily to herself and turned back to her desk. She reached into her pocket and took out an old, weathered piece of card and unfolded it delicately. Joseph moved closer, so that he now stood directly in front of her. It was a photograph of two children, a boy and a girl, no more than ten years old. Their arms were clasped around each other’s waists, their smiles beaming from the grainy faces etched into the paper. She ran her fingers across the faces and laughed softly to herself.

After carefully folding the paper up and putting it away again, she sat perfectly still at her desk, staring straight through the invisible observer that stood before her. Struck by the sadness in her eyes, Joseph reached out to put his hand on her shoulder, but it passed directly through her. At that moment there was another flash of white light, and he found himself back in his residence, the room growing cold now as the night encroached, and the silence broken only by the curtain swaying to and fro in the breeze.

The ghostly figure was nowhere to be seen, and Joseph stood alone in the darkness. He tried to make sense of what had just happened, but was too overwhelmed to think clearly. He shuffled over to the chair and sat back into it, his mind racing. Almost at once he was overcome by a great tiredness, and still troubled by the night’s events, he closed his eyes and drifted into a deep sleep.

He awoke abruptly a short time later, shivering in the cold air that now pervaded the room. At once he could sense a presence around him, and looked to the doorway. His eyes met with those of the figure that stood watching him, its vaporous bluish aura shining softly in the dark. Ratzinger did not feel alarmed this time.

‘Benedict,’ the spirit spoke, his tone as soft and pleasant as that of his predecessor.

‘I am the Ghost of Popes Present. Come with me.’

Feeling oddly serene in the company of this otherworldly being, Joseph reached out a pale, bony hand to meet the outstretched arms of his visitor. Immediately came the familiar white light, transporting him again to a place that he recognised at once.

He stood in the main Dining Hall of the Pope’s residence, where during his reign he had often hosted lavish dinners and luncheons. The room was sumptuously decorated, the dining table laid for a bountiful feast. He noticed the current Pope seated at the head of the table, surrounded by a number of Cardinals. Each was dressed in his finest robes, the luxury of their attire matched only by the opulence of their surroundings. The congregated guests ate and drank liberally as they talked genially amongst one another, their earnest opining on various Church matters soon ceding to mere lecture and sanctimony as the wine flowed. Ratzinger stood and watched this extravagant discourse, overcome by a feeling of cold detachment that mirrored his corporeal nothingness. After a time the spectre appeared at his side and held out his hand in invitation once more.

After the white light had faded, Joseph found himself in an unfamiliar setting. He was standing over a small wooden table, where a family of four were sitting down to eat. The room was cramped and dimly lit, the candlelight emanating from the table casting large, menacing shadows on the damp stone walls. The children were dressed in dirty, tattered clothes that did little to keep away the bitter cold. Their feet, dangling from the high stools on which they were perched, were completely bare.

Their mother dished out a meagre portion to each of them, saving just the tiniest amount for herself and her husband. As she sat, the four bowed their heads in unison and muttered a prayer of thanks. Blessing themselves, they turned eagerly to their meal, the children wolfing down their helpings in seconds. Joseph stood transfixed as the father stood up and carefully emptied what was left of his paltry meal into his children’s bowls. His eyes were drawn to the wall above the fireplace, where the gentle flicker of the candle glinted on the crucifix that was hung there, beside it a small, framed portrait of the current Pope. As his eyes rested on the image, the brilliant white light flashed again, instantly wrenching him away from the scene.

Joseph was once more standing in his residence, the air now almost insufferably cold. A sombre sliver of pale moonlight that gleamed from the open window was the only relief from the dreary gloom that had enveloped the room. Feeling himself unbearably weighed down by what had transpired, he crossed the room and pulled the window closed, then headed for his bedroom. Hoping for some respite from the weariness that shrouded him, he lay down and pulled the soft, silken sheets over his tired body. As his head hit the pillow he fell instantly into a fitful sleep, plagued by the dark thoughts and half-remembered regrets of a dying man.

When he woke with a start, Joseph immediately felt uneasy. He sensed a sinister presence in the room that disturbed him greatly. A chill ran through his entire body as he perceived a shadowy figure approaching his bedside. This spirit had the same blue glow as the others, but its features were indiscernible. Its face was hidden by a dark hood, and it spoke with a harsh, ominous growl from the black void beneath.

‘Joseph,’ it rasped in a spiteful snarl, ‘I am the Ghost of Popes Yet to Come. I will give you a glimpse into your future.’

A moment later Joseph found himself standing in the corner of the very same room. It was pitch black save for a single candle on the bedside locker. The wind howled outside as torrents of rain battered the window. A figure lay motionless in the bed, curled up as if to ward off the cold. Ratzinger hesitantly approached the bedside and stooped to inspect the man who lay there. For the second time that night the countenance he faced was his own. His weathered features had taken on a deathly pallor, his glazed eyes staring straight ahead but seeing nothing. Joseph recoiled in horror and slumped to his knees on the floor. As the rain continued to pound incessantly at the windowpane, a flash of lightning illuminated the room for a brief moment. When Joseph opened his eyes he was once again in his own bed, sitting upright in a cold sweat, and breathing harshly into the cold, empty air that surrounded him.

When Ratzinger had composed himself he got out of bed and made his way to the living room, still deeply perplexed and troubled by the events of the night. He wandered over to the window and stood staring out at his surroundings. The sun was coming up on the horizon, illuminating the rooftops and church spires of the city that had been his home for so long. He stood there in silence for some time, contemplating the life he had led, with his eyes set fixedly on the rising sun, and tears rolling down his pallid, sunken cheeks.

At the library’s front desk Angela was preparing to leave for the evening. She packed her things away and headed for the front door. She stopped at the exit to wrap up, and as she put on her heavy overcoat, her scarf fell to the floor. As she bent down to pick it up, an outstretched arm appeared above her, and she gratefully took it to help herself up. As she stood, her hand still grasped tightly in his, her eyes met those of the young man she’d known her whole life. She smiled warmly at him, and as he smiled back, she noticed a playful glint in his eye that she had not seen for some time.

‘I changed my mind, my study can wait until tomorrow. If the offer still stands?’

‘Of course,’ she replied with a smirk, as they left the library together, descending the steps into the cool winter’s night with the moonlight guiding their way, and their arms clinched tightly around each other’s waists.


From Arabia with Love

The much publicised anti-Muslim propaganda film The Innocence of Muslims has led to much bitterness and resentment in the Middle East in recent weeks. Amidst the violent protests and outraged condemnations seen around the Arabic world, reports suggest that a number of Middle Eastern governments have united in a project designed to avenge the offence and humiliation suffered as a result of the film.

Just a few short weeks before the release of Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, indications are that an Islamic version of the popular spy franchise has been hastily readied for release. The plot concerns a lone Muslim agent’s endeavour to stop a maniacal Western autocrat who is hell-bent on the destruction of the Middle East. A draft of the script has been intercepted ahead of the film’s release, and the following is a synopsis of said film, provisionally titled On the Ayatollah’s Secret Service.

The action begins in New York City, the decadent metropolis of the infidel. As the sun sets over the harbour the camera pans across the skyline and centres in on the giant outline of the Statue of Liberty. Clutching a sword in her raised right hand and a map of the Middle East in her left, she stands looking disdainfully eastwards across the ocean as if to say: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, so I can foist my tyrannical regime upon them and take their shit without asking.’

The camera zooms in behind the blank stare of the immense monument, into the hollow interior of the head. A hunched figure sits behind an enormous wooden desk in a spotlit corner of the cavernous lair, scribbling furiously at a piece of paper. The man is Doctor O, an oppressive despot who has risen to become the Commander in Chief of the Western forces. He was kidnapped from his idyllic Muslim home as a child and secretly raised by Richard Nixon and his gay lover Pat. They instilled the hypocritical ideals of the West in his naive consciousness and brought him up to believe he is destined to bring the crushing yoke of democracy to bear on the savage world of Islam.

The camera zooms in once more to show the paper on Doctor O’s desk, which has the words ‘Operation Freedom’ written on it. On the sheet is a crude crayon picture of the prophet Muhammad being hit by a drone in a highly sensitive area, then repeatedly being choked out by Hulk Hogan who intermittently shouts ‘Woo!’ and ‘I am a real American!’ As a fierce thunderstorm moves in across the bay, flashes of lightning illuminate the twisted, hateful face of the Doctor, cackling dementedly to himself into the empty night, the thought of implementing his fiendish plan giving him an enormous trouser snake.

Thousands of miles away agent Jamal Bond sits slumped against the bar gazing mournfully into the bottom of his glass. ‘Another!’ he shouts at the barman, Mo, whose Halal Bar in Baghdad does a tidy trade in non-alcoholic drinks, savoury snacks and effigies of Western leaders.

‘Come on Jamal, seventy-two Virgin Martinis is enough for any man. It’s time you went home.’

‘I’ll tell you when I’ve had…’

The sound of the door creaking open interrupts the conversation as the pair look towards the entrance. A grizzled old man limps into the bar, flanked by two enormous bodyguards. A lifetime of conflict is evident from one look at the man, whose face is covered with burns and scars, his two eyepatches betraying a history of extreme violence.

‘Bond?’ croaks the harsh timbre of the old soldier’s voice.

Jamal jumps up from his seat and salutes as the elderly officer shuffles over to the bar.

‘I’m afraid your vacation is over agent Bond. You must come with me at once.’

‘Eh, he’s over there,’ responds the barman, pointing down the bar to Jamal.

Within minutes Jamal is seated in the back of a car racing through central Baghdad. The old man briefs him as they weave through the traffic, informing him that they’ve intercepted details of an operation that threatens to bring down all the governments of the Middle East.

‘Ah, you mean Twitter? I knew freedom of expression would be the end of us.’

‘No Bond, this is even more serious than that. We believe Doctor O has developed a new kind of drone that will wipe us off the map. You are the only one that can stop him.’

Jamal turns and looks solemnly out the window.

‘Then I must go to America and kill Doctor O.’

A few seconds pass, then the old man leans over and points out the far window,

‘Therefore you must go to America and kill Doctor O.’

Jamal shakes his head,

‘Seriously, how do you still have a job?’

The car pulls up outside the Iraqi Secret Service’s headquarters, cleverly disguised as an empty shopfront advertising feminist literature on sale inside. Jamal heads for the equipment division, known as Qu’Branch, to collect his kit for the mission. When he arrives agent Qu is busy testing a new piece of technology, a school uniform that is resistant to white phosphorus.

Qu brings Bond over to a table where his equipment has been laid out for him.

‘Our intelligence operatives have prepared a disguise that will allow you to fit in with the infidels. You will wear this leather jacket like their legendary Fonzie, and this do-rag with the American flag on it. We have also procured the new iPhone and set up a Facebook account for you. It is essential that you update this hourly with trivial nonsense or they will realise you are not one of them. Just make sure you don’t use the map on it whatever you do.’

Jamal takes his equipment and gets up to leave.

‘Oh and take this for the plane journey,’ says Qu, handing him a book.

‘Our intel shows that all the American men are reading it. Good luck agent Bond.’

The guard at the passport desk of JFK International Airport motions to the top of the queue, ‘Next please.’ His bored expression turns to a look of mild bemusement as the man approaches the booth. He places his passport on the desk and smiles vacantly at the guard.

‘Howdy partner.’

The guard looks him up and down. He’s wearing a glittery stars and stripes tank top with a moth-eaten leather jacket, a pair of ludicrously tight denim cut-offs, and a pair of brown leather cowboy boots. He has a do-rag on his head but it isn’t tied and keeps blowing off as he stands in front of the desk. The guard glances at his passport.

‘Your name is Chuck?’

‘Yessir.’

‘Chuck Berry?’

‘Yessiree, named after my granddaddy. Good to be back in the ol’ US of A, yessir.’

The guard glances at the book in the man’s hand, the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey.

‘Yessir I loves this here book. Almost as good as that there Salman Rushdie. I don’t wish him a painful death at all, no sir.’

The guard takes one last look at him and waves him on. Jamal takes his passport and heads for the exit, breathing a sigh of relief that his disguise worked. As he departs he could swear that he hears the guard mutter under his breath, ‘God damn queers.’

Jamal gets into a taxi and heads for the city. All around him he recognises the stench of Western corruption and debauchery. Women walk the streets with their faces and midriffs shamelessly exposed. Jews disguised as businessmen huddle together on Wall Street, no doubt plotting the downfall of the Arabic world. Television screens flaunt America’s famous homosexuals like Ryan Seacrest, Tom Cruise and Joe Biden.

After arriving at his hotel Jamal changes into his tuxedo and heads for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Doctor O is scheduled to give a speech there this evening at the opening of an exhibit. When he arrives he wanders around and mingles with the other guests. He is mostly disgusted by these elitist Western snobs, although he does have an enlightening conversation with Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum, with whom he discovers he has a lot in common. He also notices quite a few famous paintings that he’s nearly sure he saw hanging in Saddam’s palace back in the glory days, that Saddam told him he had personally painted. These thieving Americans have no shame, he thought to himself.

Eventually Doctor O rises to make his speech. Jamal disdainfully surveys his target from the back of the room, and makes sporadic farting noises in an attempt to distract him. He feels a vibration in his pocket and his ring-tone plays loudly, a recording of Tariq Aziz doing Suspicious Minds at the Christmas party a few years ago. He checks his phone and sees a Facebook message from his superiors:

‘Operation Freedom is a go for tomorrow. Intercept and eliminate target tonight at all costs and stop drone from being fired. End transmission. Oh and have a look at the YouTube video I embedded. It’s a dog miaowing like a cat! LOL!’

After viewing the hilarious video Jamal waits until the end of the speech, then follows Doctor O and his entourage as they leave the museum.

After following the Doctor’s limousine in a cab, Jamal finds himself at the foot of the statue of Liberty. The front entrance is heavily guarded so he scales the statue in order to reach the head. Slipping in a window, he sees Doctor O standing at a control panel in the centre of the room.

‘I’ve been expecting you Mister Bond,’ says the Doctor, turning to face him.

Jamal takes out his pistol and aims it at him.

‘It’s over Doctor, step away from that panel.’

The Doctor holds his finger tantalisingly over a giant red button.

‘We’ve been dabbling in chemical warfare for a long time agent Bond, and we’ve finally perfected in drone form a weapon of unimaginable power.’

‘What are you talking about you maniac?’

‘Isn’t it obvious? What do you hate most, Jamal? What would tear the Middle East apart like no amount of explosive tonnage ever could?’

Bond’s face slowly becomes transfixed with horror.

‘You don’t mean…’

‘Oh yes,’ replies the Doctor, grinning smugly, ‘a gay bomb.’

With that remark Doctor O slams his fist on the button as Jamal fires a volley of shots in his direction. The Doctor scampers down a stairway, and with the rumbling of a missile being prepared for launch clearly audible nearby, Bond follows him down into the darkness.

Jamal finds himself in the main foyer area, a circular room lined with all the flags of the world. Suddenly Doctor O leaps up and hurls the New Zealand flag across the room, narrowly missing Bond’s head and knocking his gun across the floor out of his reach. He reaches for the Australian flag, then the British one, launching them with a venomous, consuming anger at Jamal, who ducks for cover beneath a table

‘Damn minnows can’t get the job done,’ mutters the Doctor to himself as he picks up the US flag and begins to run towards Bond. Jamal notices he is crouching beside the flag of his motherland, Iraq. With the thoughts and prayers of the millions across the Arabic world on his shoulders, and a steely determination in his eyes, he grasps his destiny with both hands and turns just as Doctor O comes flying through the air to finish him off. A piercing scream echoes around the dark chamber as the evil dictator is fatally impaled. His face contorts horribly as he takes his last breath, and collapses into a heap. The flag of his country, held aloft in his arms, along with its pride and avarice, its sins and its self-importance, its delusions of splendour and greatness, comes crashing down on top of him, and all is silent.

Jamal races back up to the control room and hits the Abort button on the panel. He runs out to the observation deck just in time to see the giant drone explode in the sky above the city. As the chemical weapon is dispersed into the air above New York, Bond begins to feel very strange. He looks up in amazement at the burning wreckage of the missile crashing into the sea like an enormous shooting star. The sparkling residue illuminates the entire skyline of the city for a brief second, then flickers and fades slowly into darkness.

‘Fabulous,’ Jamal whispers into the cool night air, ‘just fabulous.’


Éamon de Valera: Zombie Hunter

Another summer has arrived in Hollywood, and with it another slew of preposterous blockbusters aiming to make millions from the slack-jawed, gormless dribblers that pass for young people these days. As everyone now knows, a shady cabal of movie producers has been secretly building a giant particle accelerator under the Hollywood hills over the past few years. Only instead of using boring things like electrons and atoms, the boffins enter variables such as historical figures, supernatural creatures, absurd plot lines, and other such elements of successful films. Nine times out of ten the machine just churns out 3D remakes of ‘80s films with less dialogue and more explosions, toplessness, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Every now and then, however, it produces an inspired, original idea, such as has happened with the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The alternate historical angle is always ripe for entertainment, and coincidentally, this week in Ireland has seen the discovery of a secret journal kept by former Irish President, Taoiseach and very tall citizen, Éamon de Valera. It provides a fascinating insight into a hitherto unknown series of events that took place during the War of Independence. The following are some extracts from that journal.

December 16th, 1920, New York:

I have been over here for eighteen months now, and the effort of raising funds for our revolution back home is taking its toll. I’m feeling particularly dispirited after meeting with the American Secretary of State today, who advised me that there were probably better ways to earn money than performing an Irish dancing set outside the gates of the White House. Now he tells me.

My depression was not helped when I received a letter this morning from my Minister for Finance, Michael Collins, urging me to come home at once. It appears the British have sent a formidable force of soldiers to our shores to crush our rebellion once and for all. I have decided to set sail for Ireland at once, and I must admit to being concerned and puzzled by Michael’s description of this new squad of troops as ‘a bunch of unkillable, decaying feckers. They’re pure weird Dev.’ He even took a whole three pages to recount a rather crude anecdote about one of the British force feasting on poor Arthur Griffith’s brains. I depart tomorrow at dawn, with a troubled heart, a grave fear for my beloved country, and very sore feet.

January 14th, 1921, Dublin:

I have only been home for two weeks, and the situation here grows worse by the day. The British invasion has swept across the city, and ordinary Irish people seem to be joining their ranks for some inexplicable reason. The soldiers wander the streets night and day, groaning and muttering, occasionally shouting things like ‘God save King George’, or ‘It’s so temperate here compared to Calcutta’, although mostly they seem to talk about their penchant for brains. Their eyes are a deep crimson, and have the same glazed, empty appearance that seems to come over my colleagues whenever I speak in the Dáil. The pallor of their skin and their general sluggishness suggests that they are suffering from some ailment or other, perhaps Spanish flu, or possibly Protestantism.

Only myself, Michael, and a small band of men have so far escaped their advances, and we have taken refuge in St. James’s Gate brewery. Although its high walls offer us adequate protection, I fear we may be undone by the nightly seven-hour singsongs the men indulge in after sampling the massive quantities of Guinness, which are sure to attract attention sooner or later.

One among our group is a young man by the name of John Charles, who is studying to become a priest. He says he dreams of one day becoming a bishop, and even carries a giant crosier around with him. I have become particularly close with him since he saved my life just last week. I was on patrol when a young woman, clearly afflicted with the disease, attacked me from behind, shouting something about cockles, mussels, and brains.

As if from thin air, JC appeared, and smashed the poor girl’s head to smithereens with his crosier, all the while screaming ‘God wills it!’

‘Holy first communion Dev, that was a close one.’

‘I don’t know how to thank you JC, you saved me from being transformed into one of these beasts.’

‘To be honest Dev, I didn’t even notice she was one of them, it’s just that short skirt she’s wearing is so inappropriate to be out and about in.’

We walked away arm in arm, each of us content that whatever happened in this crazy war, at least we would have each other.

February 20th, 1921, Dublin:

These past few weeks we have lost many men to the enemy forces, and now only myself and JC remain. It was just yesterday that Michael met his gruesome end. The undead horde had breached the outer walls, and we were fleeing for our lives. With the brain-hungry masses descending on us in their hundreds, Michael turned back suddenly.

‘You go on ahead lads, I’ll hold them here.’

‘No Michael, you’ll never survive.’

With his hurl in his hand and that mad glint in his eye, he ignored our pleas as he sprinted into the frenzied crowd, pucking the heads off the vicious creatures left, right and centre.

‘Holy papal bulls Dev, that’s a brave man.’

‘The bravest,’ I whispered softly, wiping a tear from my cheek as we turned and ran for our lives. Amidst the horrific shrieking of the infected as they closed in on our fearless companion, I could have sworn I heard the proud, plaintive cry, ‘Up Cork!’ I am stricken with grief at his loss, and my only hope is that history will not judge me responsible for the death of my gallant comrade.

March 13th, 1921, Dublin:

Myself and JC have taken refuge in Trinity College these past few weeks after fighting our way across the city. In the college courtyard we were attacked by a group of infected scholars, who chanted bastardised Oscar Wilde quotes as they approached.

‘To love brains is the beginning of a life-long romance,’ moaned one of them, before JC sprang into action and quickly dispatched the erudite fiends.

‘Feckin’ Proddies,’ he muttered to himself as he cleaned the blood from his enormous bishop-stick. And from his crosier.

March 17th, 1921, Dublin:

Having barricaded ourselves into a room in the college, our enemies soon surrounded us, leaving us with no option but to stay here and wait for them to breach our defences. We had become resigned to our fate, and last night as we sat by the window overlooking the infested city streets, I sang a few bars of Come Out Ye Black and Tans, a rebel song that Michael had taught me, in an attempt to lift our spirits.

To our surprise the crowd outside instantly became agitated and began to drop to their knees, holding their heads and screeching wildly. As I continued to sing, one by one the zombies’ heads began to explode.

‘Holy First Vatican Council Dev, the feckers can’t hack the rebel tunes at all at all.’

I smiled wryly to myself as I surveyed the corpses below.

‘Let’s get a good night’s sleep JC, we’ve a big day ahead of us tomorrow.’

‘Fair enough Dev. You want to be big spoon or little spoon?’

And so it came to pass that today, on the day that we celebrate Saint Patrick driving the snakes from our shores, myself and JC set out to bring an end to the British invasion once and for all. We mounted one of the college’s speaker systems on an abandoned car in the courtyard, and crashed through the front gates onto the streets. From every direction came the hordes of enemies, loping towards the car with flesh-lust in their eyes. And then I began to sing.

We drove around the whole city, singing every rebel tune, lament and ballad we could think of, to a chorus of exploding heads and horrific screams from our vanquished foes. We ran out of fuel in front of the GPO, and in the spot where five short years ago we had proclaimed our independence, we finished off the remnants of the British forces with our bare hands.

As the sun was beginning to set, we stood there on the field of battle, breathless, exhausted, but victorious. I turned to my ally and friend,

‘You know something JC, this could be the start of a beautiful republic.’

He turned to me and smiled. ‘God wills it, Dev. God wills it.’ And with that we walked, hand in hand, down the street, towards our future. Towards hope, and freedom. Towards a better tomorrow.


Pain in the Áras

The presidential election is now just over five weeks away and the past few days have seen a lot of activity from potential candidates. Considering the fact that the country is in such a state of turmoil at the moment, it is disappointing to say the least that we are being provided with such a bland and uninspiring list of contenders.

The office of President is not a particularly challenging role to fill. It consists mostly of shaking hands with people, pretending to care about things and deciding which of your opulent gaff’s drawing rooms you want to retire to for your evening glass of sherry. The one quality the position does call for is diplomacy, and it is in her sensitive, measured and intelligent approach that Mary McAleese has excelled during her two terms. The idea of some of her prospective successors representing our country on the international stage is worrying.

Some of the candidates are inoffensive enough, but aren’t exactly inspirational. Mary Davis has done tireless work for charities, and would probably be better off continuing her hands-on work rather than filling a figurehead role. Dragons’ Den’s Seán Gallagher seems like a nice enough guy, and is an intelligent entrepreneur, but doesn’t really have the credentials to rise to such a prominent position. His Cavan accent would also make presidential speeches a nightmare to listen to.

There are also a few contenders for the Áras whose election would be actively damaging to the country, one of whom is Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell. Despite recently denying membership, he has been strongly linked to both the Dignitatis Humanae Institute and the Iona Institute. These poisonous right-wing groups operate under a pretense of fostering Christian values while pursuing their ultra-conservative, discriminatory agendas. Mitchell has also attracted controversy for a letter he wrote appealing for clemency for an unrepentant anti-abortion fanatic who murdered a doctor and his bodyguard outside an abortion clinic in the US. So aside from being an utterly charmless individual, a mediocre politician and a fairly dull person intellectually speaking, the man is also a throwback to the Ireland of the 1950s and has no place in any position of esteem in a liberal 21st century state.

You would think that a right-wing moron like Mitchell would be the worst candidate, but he pales in comparison to our newest entrant from Sinn Féin, a known terrorist, a despicable human being and best mates with well-known nobleman Baron Gerry Adams. There is no need to go into detail over Martin McGuinness’ past. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows what he was involved in in this country, and the amount of pain and misery he has caused. Fintan O’Toole wrote an excellent article outlining how ridiculous his candidature is.

On Pat Kenny’s Frontline programme this week, former Tánaiste Michael McDowell also reminded us of the chilling fact that if he were to be elected, the former IRA man would be the Supreme Commander of the Irish Defence Forces. This is one job application where his vast experience in this field counts against him. Let’s hope that if he does win the election, he’ll just refuse to turn up like he has done with his seat in Westminster since 1997. The man, and I use the term loosely, is an embarrassment to this country, and his temerity in attempting to become our first citizen is an insult to his victims and their families.

It is unfortunate we have such a low standard of candidate this year, since there are plenty of Irish people out there who could make a decent run for President. How about President Bono, who could rule by proxy from his tax haven and help Ireland lead the way on the international stage in providing aid to Africa, using the same three chords over and over, and building shit hotels? Or President Tubridy, who is already an expert at making tedious conversation with international luminaries. Although as far as I know Conan O’Brien was never President so Tubs would need to steal someone else’s act before taking the gig. Maybe Dustin the Turkey, latterly preoccupied with his budding musical career, could revive his political ambitions to compete in his third election? If Fianna Fáil nominated him, he’d surely perform better than any human stupid enough to associate themselves with the party.

Assuming none of these possible challengers announce a late charge for the presidency, it looks set to go to either Michael D. Higgins, or, if he manages to obtain the signatures required to get on the ballot, David Norris. Both are intelligent, articulate men who would doubtlessly do a fine job, and I would be happy enough to see either win. I suppose the country just isn’t ready to accept as President a small loudmouth puppet made famous by a pathetic excuse for a singing career, and whose opinions are even more ridiculous than Gay Mitchell’s. I guess Dana will just have to wait another seven years.


Sanctimony of Marriage

A few weeks ago an article appeared in The Irish Times concerning the treatment by Iarnród Éireann staff of a same-sex couple on their way home from a march supporting gay marriage. The relevant details are in the link provided, but the situation can be summed up in the succinct reply the men were given when they protested their case: “Irish Rail doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage.” How admirable of such an organisation to step out of their remit of having people driven around in trains and branch into holding strong opinions on weighty moral and societal issues. Obviously the company does, however, recognise a PR disaster when they see one as they were quick to issue an apology.

Gay marriage is quite a contentious issue at the moment. New York officially legalised it this year, and there is currently an ongoing debate in Australia after the gay brother of politician Bob Katter criticised his sibling’s remark that gay marriage “deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed.” It’s quite impressive that a hick Australian politician can find the time to sneer at the idea of same-sex unions in between asserting that Muslim immigrants are ruining the country and complaining that Aborigines get preferential treatment. Incidentally Katter also refutes climate change, and admits to throwing eggs at The Beatles in 1964 as an act of ‘intellectual reaction against Beatlemania’. Indeed.  It’s people like him that make you sorry we didn’t find somewhere even more remote to send all of our criminals back in the day.

The usual argument against allowing same-sex marriage is that the sanctity of marriage must be protected. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman and exists mainly for the purpose of procreation, so they say. This of course ignores couples who can’t, or simply choose not to have children, and conveniently glosses over single-parent families, as well as the sheer amount of straight couples that are truly awful parents. Procreating is easy, it’s the next part that requires a bit of effort.

There is also the slightly more pressing matter of our planet being hugely overpopulated. In a hundred years time there’ll be 9 billion of us perched on the only mountain-top that hasn’t slipped underwater, huddled around watching the world’s last drops of oil burn away, cursing all that time we spent inventing nuclear weapons and thinner phones when we should have been relocating to Mars. If anything we could probably do with a few married couples who don’t plan on producing any more mouths to feed.

The religious conservative right is, of course, the loudest voice calling for the integrity of marriage to be preserved. The polemicist Christopher Hitchens made an interesting point a few years ago that if any group should embrace the idea of gay marriage, it is the conservative right. He notes that the gay movement has moved away from the idea of being different and set apart from everyone else, and has expressed a willingness to conform to conventional societal norms.

He states that gay marriage is an example of the socialisation of homosexuality, given that marriage is such a fundamental part of human society, and the fact that many within the gay community now want to be classed as husbands and wives like everyone else. He is absolutely right but obviously such a daring display of logic and reasonable thinking will not dissuade the right wing from inarticulately and loudly voicing their grievances.

The arguments about preserving marriage as it is are interesting because such rationale is not applied uniformly. Changes to law and social tradition are often welcomed if viewed as positive progress. For example, not so long ago voting was the exclusive preserve of men who owned land. Now it is a right for all adults. Most sensible people don’t see this as an erosion of values. Rather it is simply a reflection of changing values. Society is dynamic and is constantly evolving, and the law has to keep up if we’re to progress. The view persists, however, that legalising gay marriage will somehow cheapen the whole thing. Although I’m pretty sure that with Vegas weddings, the astoundingly huge divorce rate, constant infidelity, and people playing Kelly Clarkson for their first dance, the gays couldn’t possibly cheapen it any more even if they tried.

Most of the opposition to changing the status of marriage is based in religion, especially in countries with a strong religious conservative base like America. Even himself is guilty of it. Incidentally I’d imagine Jefferson and the rest of the founding fathers are just over the moon with how their vision of a true secular nation turned out. Nice job lads. Many of these religious types are profoundly un-Christian when it comes to certain matters, homosexuality being a prominent example.

Refusing to mind their own business, they seem intent on telling everyone else exactly why they’re going to Hell. Some of the hatred and invective directed towards certain groups of people by self-proclaimed followers of Jesus is somewhat at odds with his whole message. A wise man once said that it seems the more you talk about Jesus, the less you have to act like him. In fairness though, anyone would find it hard to act like a 2,000 year old Jew who’s lived in an ethereal paradise for most of his afterlife. The accent would be a nightmare to get right.

Whatever the reasons, religious fundamentalist types seem to love imposing their views on others. Imposition is the key term here, because everyone is entitled to their opinion but nobody has the right to impose it on another. Live your own life by whatever moral code you wish, but don’t force other people to live by your values. If you don’t agree with abortion, do not ever set foot in an abortion clinic with a view to availing of their services while you have a foetus inside you. If you don’t agree with gay marriage, don’t any time soon find yourself entering a civil union with a homosexual person. These are not difficult situations to ignore. In fact they are rather difficult to manufacture and would require quite a bit of planning. There are not many stories that begin with you telling the lads in the pub, “You’ll never believe what happened to me yesterday” and end with “Well I’d better head off, me and the husband are up early to go and buy some new curtains. Simon says blue is so last year’s colour.”

It is fairly apparent that we are slowly but surely moving towards a world where gay marriage is not an outlandish concept. Each generation of young people is by and large more liberal and tolerant than the last, so it’s basically just a question of waiting for the ignorance to die out. Which, thanks to modern medicine, can take fecking ages. This is invariably a good thing though. Hopefully if any of my grandchildren turn out to be gay my decrepit body will have survived long enough to enjoy the wedding. I just hope they’re not Kelly Clarkson fans.