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23 July 1998 Edition

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Television: 57 channels and nothing on

Ship of Fools (Network 2)
Cuairt na Cruinne (TnaG/RTE)
42 up (BBC1)
This really is the silly season - as I scanned the screen in desperation for a half decent programe, I was faced with some desperate choices from the turgid satellite channels, whose aim it is to turn your brain to soft putty .

Pamela Anderson was starring in Barb Wire on Sky Movies ``as a leather clad avenging angel who helps smuggle an underground leader across the border before setting out on a quest for contact lenses with the power to save the world''.

Over on Sky One there was a choice between Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverley Hills, The Stupid or Last of the Dogmen while on Channel Bravo (which is a cover name for soft porn), Italian Stripping Housewives was showing twice a day.

The only semblance of sound mind amid this applesauce was the National Geographic Channel, which has appeared recently, unnanounced but much needed.

It has substituted the atrocious Super Channel, and A Lizard Summer was showing last night - which sounds better than the summer we're having at present. Tune in!

Sky News were busy broadcasting the news of a fire on an American cruise ship, which had no casualties, while the deaths of three thousand `second class' Papua New Guineans was relegated to the backpages.

Teilifis na Gaeilge is another exception to the dross of the new stations , and one of its recent successes, Cuairt na Cruinne, was picked up by RTE.

Renowned Donegal poet Cathal O Searcaigh was setting off on a quest to conquer the Himalayas, assisted by Irish Everest hero, Dermot Somers.

Somers was cutting in his assessment of the chubby Cathal: ``I don't have much respect for poets - they're weak and there's too many of them''.

His appraisal at first seemed accurate as O Searcaigh seemed more interested in the maelstrom of culture and religion that is Katmandhu.

He missed his first team meeeting as he ``cleansed his soul'' with the Milk Baba Guru, a local dude who has survived on milk alone for sixteen years.

O Searcaigh wasn't long however at buckling in to the long days, up at 6.30am, and long treks, although this is always alleviated by the poor sods from Nepal who have to carry their supplies.

O Searcaigh isn't long bringing his poetry to use, describing the Himalayan foothills as ``the first day of creation'' and describing the locals as ``poor bur proud''.

Somers has a similar grĂ¡ for this amazing country as he crepeatedly returns to grapple with the mountains.

Somers asserts his school masterish personality as the team nears the summit of 20,000ft Paldor, causing a clash with Cathal who opines his preference to relax: ``I'd be as happy as a donkey, drinking a cup of tea down in the valley''.

The expedition ultimately suceeds, and Cathal proudly nestle ``in the sunfolds of the mountain summit'' feeling a liitle like Yeti but more like a Mountain Guru.

42 up, on BBC 1, was beneficial in that it showed how spectacularly boring most of our lives are by the time we reach our forties.

Simon, Sue and friends, who have been visited every seven years by the cameras since their 7th birthday, had all progressed to married life, children, nice house etc.

None of them had progressed to pop stardom, football fame, Westminster, serial killing, drug addiction - in fact the most interesting event in their lives was Symon's divorce and Tony getting caught in bed ``with another woman'' by his wife.

The most pugnacious were the public schoolboy trio, who at seven were reading the Financial Times and complaining about ``poor people''.

They all predictably developed into snotty nosed Tories, working ``in the city''. Law etc, called their children Timothy and Alexandra and sent them to the same public schools of their youth.

One clear difference to be seen is the confidence instilled by the public school system, which lasts a lifetime, something which needs to be instilled in the educatiuon system as a whole.

Maybe I'm the fool, but the much heralded Ship of Fools didn't deliver any message other than: aren't we all terrible for fighting, and when is all the violence going to stop?

The animation was very admirable as Captain of the ship sailed into stormy waters where we saw images of exploding skulls, riverdancers, hurlers, fishwives and lambeg drummers.

The stars on Captain Baldy's show- Balaclava, Bishop, Orange Man, Politician and Mortar, were followed by Tricolour and Union Jack clad coffins and crying babies.

Much cartoonography, but alas mumbo jumbo and no new messages.

The Tour De France is trundling along, drug kits intact, as the men are being separated from the boys on the Pyrenees where the Basque colours are very much in evidence.

Unfortunately cycling is not much of a spectator sport, as thousands of Southerners recently discovered, unless you consider a two second glimpse comparable to a football match. But then again the Ulster Final was hardly a sporting spectacle - ``the worst nightmare of a match'' as described by the never-short-of-a-word Joe Brolly, who also compared teammate Seamas Downey's posterior to ``a bag of cement'' .

The pink-trousered British Open was predictably mind numbing. The only sporting respite being Clare triumphing yet again in Munster. Their popularity is on a slide as they lose their underdog tag and their manager is now perceived as arrogant. If the unpopularity is the price of success then so be it.

Enjoy the rain, go to the pub or go mad!

By Sean O'Donaile

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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