Pseuds, Phonies, Bunco Artists

The first thing to understand is that it's nothing to do with things artistic. I make no claims in that area. What I know of painting could be written on the side of a tin of Walpamur. In fact, it is. In the literary field I was long under the illusion that any book with Gide on the cover should be filed under Travel. Music goes in one ear and out the other and no one can convince me that Claire de Lune is not an opera about a mentally deranged woman called Claire.


However, I do know about chancers. Pseuds, phonies, bunco artists, them I can spot a mile off.


You've heard about the Aosdana? There will be 150 artists, the Aosdana, each getting £4,000 of public money, each year for five years. Aosdana means "The Gifted Ones", if you don't mind, and even if you do. This will be overseen by ten Toscairi, "The Elders". The money isn't called money - it's a Cnuas. It seems that, having bought up most of the best new paintings in the country, Mr. Haughey is now engaged in trying to buy the artists.


The idea suggests that there is some mysterious store of "Art" on the other side of consciousness - just waiting to be channelled into our world by "Artists" unburdened by monetary worries. It doesn't just suggest but says outright that there are entities called Artists, Gifted Ones, who can be identified and catalogued and set aside from the Ungifted. This is likely to prove just as pleasing to the liberal intelligensia as did Charlie's other scheme, the one to relieve Artists of the burden of tax. This paid certain international writers to come live here for a while, and filled the hills with the mediocre and the soft porn merchants - and even the mediocre soft porn merchants. But among the liberal thickensia is muted criticism of Charlie. (Mind you, even if The Gifted Ones weren't paying tax at their end of the transaction, we Ungifted Ones had to fork out the VAT at the other end when buying a book. So much for not taxing the arts.)


Charlie is well on his way to convincing a large proportion of those who transmit the information from which opinions are formed that he is Not So Much A Politician More A Way Of Life. It's hard to blame the individual artists for accepting the gnuasanna but, already, people who should know better have been having orgasms over what is no more than an injection of public money in the Art business.


At four minutes to midnight on Saturday, November 8 last, I stubbed out a cigarette, folded my arms and swore off an 80 per day habit that had lasted ten years. I mention this as a means of establishing credentials. I know my way around a cigarette. The Man With The Golden Throat. As only five months have gone by since then, and since there has already been one Night Of The Big Lapse, there is no question of boasting. The point is that there are reasons to smoke and reasons not to and I will if I have to and I don't need anybody bugging me about it. And I don't want them spending my money to annoy me.


They're giving out badges. Badges in the shape of knotted cigarettes. Very cute. Someone got a promotion for thinking of that one, right? Smokers see the badge, throw up their hands in horror, divest themselves of cigs, take up knitting. . .


Giving up the smokes is not a doddle. It's a serious business. You do it when you want to, how you want to, if you want to. You don't decide to do it because there's a bonus offer of extra saving stamps, six matching sugar bowls or a week at the Drumshanbo Hilton. Or because some ignorant thick waves a badge in your face. This latest gimmick is annoying, insulting, it costs a hell of a lot of money - and it doesn't work. It doesn't work because it's an advertising gimmick designed to show off the concern of the gits in the Department of Health and chief git Michael Woods - and for no other purpose.


As a response, I have designed the badge illustrated below. One could suggest that you carefully cut around the edges of this drawing, stick it to a piece of cardboard and pin it to your lapel in order to be as offensive as possible to the gits. Sounds to me like too much trouble. Better just to wait until you meet someone wearing one of the Minister's twisted cigarette badges. Be careful not to leave obvious bruises. Ring me immediately afterwards and we'll arrange an alibi.


The excellent series of pocket travel guides by Berlitz includes in its coverage of each country a note on Crime and Theft. Example: in the guide to London they note, "you ought to be on your guard against pickpockets and petty thieves". This is the standard warning. The equivalent note in their recently published guide to Ireland begins: "Bank robberies are so popular in Ireland that it's a wonder anyone has time for petty theft." True true. Bless me father for I have. . . oops! it's yourself.


Bought a copy of Strumpet, the new Dublin "street" magazine, last month. No mean feat. This boringly named publication is produced by a bunch of pseuds who refuse to sell the magazine through the usual outlets on the grounds that, y'know man, there should be more, like, empathy and that kinda thing, between the writers and their readers, man.


Guy came into the pub waving the magazine. I showed willing and sat back. Here comes the empathy. Hit me with that full and frank exchange of sympatico, baby.


Nothing. Not a sausage. Took my 30p and buggered off. Didn't even spare a sec to advise me (or should say "rap") on the best brand of brown rice. That's the kind of thing could give a guy a complex. It would be nice to report that the contents of Strumpet are as boring as its publishers. But it's quite good, when you beat your way through the pretentiousness and the self-righteous breast beating. Very enjoyable story on "The Lone Riders From Ballyfarout", the urban cowboys of Ballyfermot. The courts, the media, a pub strike, CIE, community arts, planning, music and a lot more get Strumpeted. Well done in places, lots of rubbish, some unintentional hilarity, ("the large black car parks that hover around Gardiner St." - is it a bird? is it a plane? No, it's a novel solution to traffic problems).


Strangely enough, although the pseuds turn up their noses at selling the thing through shops they sell subscriptions by post, at £2 for 6 issues - not much empathy in that. But it's cheap at the price, and worth getting from Strumpet, 19 Westland Row, Dublin 2.


Finally, if the correspondent signing his or her self, Name And Address Withheld To Avoid An Arresting Experience, would care to get in touch again we could have a jar and discuss the potential threat to democracy as we know it and the dire standards of middle management in this country. . .