Month: September 2015

“Flarglebegargle…”

STATE OF THE MOUSE ADDRESS

Hi guys. So this is going to be one of those big weird posts where I update you on various unrelated pieces of news relating to the blog that I didn’t want to split up into individual posts. We all love those, right? Course we do. The news is, thankfully, pretty darn good, and I’ll be starting with the small beer before hitting you with the big exciting stuff. Let’s get started.
The Blog Awards Ireland
Huge thanks to everyone who voted. Won’t know for a while if I made the shortlist but we’ll see.
Ranking the Taoisigh
So the blog’s weird little detour into Irish political history has now wrapped up. Thanks to everyone who read, commented, and took the time to inform me that Seán Lemass was robbed. If you missed it, it was my attempt to review every Irish head of state in my usual “charming” style and you can get started here. Additionally, some have mentioned that they’d like to read through the entries chronologically to get a better sense of the historical narrative so I’m happy to oblige:
I’ve decided that I’ll be doing the “posting every two days for a month” thing next year, but on a topic a little closer to this blog’s heart. Ain’t sayin’ nothin’.
The Devil’s Heir
The sequel to the Hangman’s Daughter will start going up this Saturday with a new chapter every second Saturday afterwards. Huge thanks to my brother Eamonn for helping me with proof-reading and editing. If you want to get caught up on the first book before diving into the second so you know what the heck is going on and why all these Vikings and Cowboys are fighting demons and who the old lady kicking all the ass is, you can get started here.
What the blog is going to look like in the future
It feels like almost a year ago that I announced that I was going to start reviewing Marvel movies on this blog (what’s that? It was almost a year ago? I see). Back then I said I’d be starting in July 2015 but clearly that didn’t happen. Gallstones, crossovers, the whole BluCatt thing…mouse plans, God laughs, right? Anyway, I am now down to the last three reader requested reviews which will go up on the 15th and 29th of October and the 19th November. Then, Iron Man on the 3rd of December and we’re on our way, alternating with the winners from the first Move Deathmatch.
Wait a minute, “first”?
Yup. Okay, so there’s this new project I’m involved in that I can’t tell you about. Yet. I will be making an announcement soon. But it’s big. Potentially huge. Here’s what you need to know: We’ll be fundraising on Kickstarter and my contribution will be to run a second Movie Deathmatch here. This one is going to be a little different (for instance, for a larger donation you’ll be able to bypass the voting process and just buy a review) but for now I just need you to shout our your choices in the comments. Which movies do you want me to review? As many as you want. And as before, the twelve movies that seem to have the most support will be selected for the Deathmatch. Oh, and as well as animated features and comic book movies, this time I’m also accepting requests for animated series. Just name the series for now, we’ll figure out which episodes will actually get reviewed later.
That about does her, thanks guys!
"Gesunheit."

#1 W.T. Cosgrave

Name: William Thomas Cosgrave
Party: Cumann na nGaedheal (Later re-named Fine Gael)
Terms served: December ’22-March ‘32
Ask any American, regardless of their level of education or political engagement,  who was the first President of the U.S. and they’ll be able to tell you it was George Washington. But ask an Irishman or woman who was the first Taoiseach and you’ll quite possibly leave them stumped. This is not because we’re all idiots (it’s a coincidence), but more reflective of the piecemeal, stop-start nature of Irish nationhood. In Shakespeare’s Henry V the Irishman MacMorris asks “What isht my nation?” and five hundred years later we still don’t knowsht. It’s not at all easy to say when “Ireland” first came into existence. I mean, there has been an island called “Ireland” and a people called “the Irish” since time immemorial. But when did the modern nation known as “Ireland” first spring into existence? Was it when Padraig Pearse stood outside the GPO and read the Proclamation to a tittering Dublin citizenry in 1916? Was it when Collins signed his own death warrant with the Anglo-Irish treaty? Or how about when DeValera brought in the new constitution of 1937 or when John A. Costello finally said “screw this noise” and declared a republic in 1948? Also complicating things is that if you said that the first Taoiseach was Eamon DeValera, you’d be technically correct.
"The best kind of correct!"

“The best kind of correct!”

Eamon DeValera was indeed the first person to hold a title of that name. However, as I mentioned in the introduction, the current historical consensus is to retroactively  count W.T. Cosgrave as the first Taoiseach.
"Gesundheit."

“Gesundheit.”

He is also, in my uninformed opinion, the greatest. Why? And if he is, why is he, if not forgotten, so often overlooked? Firstly, let me explain who W.T. Cosgrave was. And, as I know most of my readers are American, I’ll use an American historical allegory. I want you to imagine that you’re one of the founding fathers. Not one of the big guys though. You’re one of the no-names who’s always in the background of the portraits.

Founding fathers

To all the other Founding Fathers you’re considered dependable, but hardly exceptional. You don’t have a whole heap of legislative experience outside of a stint in local government. You run a tavern, that’s about it. You are, all things considered, a fairly normal Joe. The kind of guy who, when this is all over, will be lucky to get a footnote in some history book and maybe a school named after you in your home town.
So, the War of Independence kicks off and it doesn’t go as well it did in our reality. Oh, the Americans still win. But Britain manages to hold on to a few of the colonies. Washington, realising that the Revolutionary Army’s supplies of food and ammunition are running low, accepts a compromise with the British Crown that allows them to keep these colonies in exchange for independence for the rest. Jefferson, outraged, leads half of the constitutional conference in a rebellion against Washington and the newly freed colonies are suddenly plunged into Civil War.
So you’re thinking, wow, this got real bad real fast. But we’re still good. We’ve still got George Mo’Fuckin Washington and Benjamin “Lighting is my Bitch” Franklin on our side, how can we lose?
Then you wake up one day to be told that George Washington’s been fuckin’ SHOT, Benjamin Franklin has died in bed and, because half of the government went with that traitorous dog Jefferson, YOU, YOU anonymous tavern keeping, local government, back of the portrait guy, are now the President.
"Aw Crap."

“Aw Crap.”

Have fun, pally.
Now, what if, ten years later, it turned out that you managed to hold everything together? You beat Jefferson, united the freed colonies and managed to establish a stable, functioning democracy?  You’d have earned the right to feel a little smug, no?
W.T. Cosgrave was that guy.
He was just a minor member of the first Dáil who, following DeValera’s rejection of the treaty, the assassination of Michael Collins, and the death from illness of Arthur Griffith, found himself running a nation embroiled in a vicious Civil War. This explains why he looks so terrified in so many of his portraits.
"...help me.."

“…help me..”

Alright, I may have sold him a little short in that analogy. Cosgrave was actually one of the more experienced politicians in De Valera’s revolutionary government, having spent many years serving on Dublin city council. He fought in the Easter Rising and, like DeValera, just narrowly escaped execution. Upon his release from prison, he ran for election as a Sinn Féin candidate and won thanks to possibly the greatest election poster in the history of everything.

This country deserves a better class of criminal.

This country deserves a better class of criminal.

Remember back in the De Valera post I mentioned howSinn Féin were essentially able to create a parallel government to compete with Britain’s institutions? Well most of the actual sweat-work was done by Cosgrave in his role as Sinn Féin’s Minister for Local Government. (Pro-tip for any aspiring revolutionaries out there: Make sure you have a government set up to take over before you win. Don’t put it on the long finger). But still, the guy would not be your first choice to lead a nation through a civil war. In fact, he may have gotten the job purely because, at 42, he was the oldest member of the government (yeah, this was a young revolution).  He was a small, quiet, totally normal bloke.

He was also something that is vanishingly rare in politicians of every stripe and nationality: Competent. That, I think, is the word that sums him up better than any other. WT Cosgrave got shit done.

Under Cosgrave’s leadership the Free State triumphed over the anti-Treaty rebels and the Civil War drew to a close in 1923. Cosgrave then had to get down to the hard business of actually governing. This, incidentally, is where the story of former colonies who win independence usually goes sour. The occupying power is kicked out, the victorious side gets into power and starts enjoying the perks, divvying up choice positions and privileges to their supporters. Resentment builds, the government cracks down, freedoms are curtailed, military dictators rise and before you know it we have to do the whole dance all over again. One of Cosgrave’s most important gifts to the country was an apolitical Civil Service. Instead of a patronage system, new applicants had to pass an entrance examination, meaning that whether or not you got a job depended on what you knew rather than who you knew.
He also had to deal with the problem of an army that had to be significantly downsized now that the war was over. By the mid-twenties, Ireland had an army of 50,000, i.e. one soldier for every sixty people and, making it one of the most militarised nations on earth. Clearly, something had to be done. Unfortunately, the army were all “Point one. We like having jobs. Point 2. We have guns.” It was looking pretty hairy for a time but fortunately Cosgravestuck to his metaphorical guns and the army never used their not so metaphorical ones and the expected army mutiny never materialised.
Internationally, Cosgrave worked to set Ireland apart from Britain, claiming a seat at the League of Nations and becoming the first British Commonwealth nation to have its own representation in Washington DC. Economics was more of a mixed bag, Ireland at the time was an overwhelmingly agricultural nation so Cosgrave and his government focused most of their energies on that sector while neglecting industry. They did, however, set up the Electricity Supply Board, the first national electricity grid in Europe.
In the end though, nothing became WT Cosgrave’s time in power like the leaving of it. By 1932, a general election had been called and Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedheal party was facing Eamon De Valera’s new and energised Fianna Fáil.
Cumann na nGaedhael sensibly ran on the platform of “Hey, ten years ago no one thought this country would even still be here!” and on their record of honest and effective government. However, they made the mistake of trying to paint DeValera and Fianna Fáil as a crowd of rabid lefty communists. It was a mistake because, to this day, if you say the word “conservatism” three times in front of a mirror, the ghost of DeValera appears and slashes your welfare benefits. Fianna Fáil won the election, and Cosgrave now faced a very difficult question. Was he really going to hand over control of the nation to the man who had thrust it into a bloody Civil War? Was he going to let all his hard work, every painful sacrifice, every monumental achievement be put in jeopardy? Was he truly going to hand stewardship of the Irish Free State over to the man who had actively worked for its destruction?
And Cosgrave said: “Yes. Because that’s how democracy works.”
"Ya eejit."

“Ya eejit.”

Despite fears of violence (some Fianna Fáil TDs went into their first day of work armed in case shit went down) Cosgrave stepped aside and DeValera assumed the position of President of the Executive Council, which he would later rename “Taoiseach.”
"Gesunheit."

“Gesundheit.”

With this one action, WT Cosgrave set the nation’s future in stone. Whatever Ireland’s problems, whatever her failings, whatever disagreements arose between her children they would be dealt with in accordance with the rule of law and the will of the people. Ireland would no longer be a nation governed by the threat of violence but by the ballot box.
Ireland was now a democracy.
That is William Cosgrave’s legacy. There can scarcely be one finer.
Pros:
  • You want more? Okay, well, it bears remembering that WT Cosgrave was a democrat in a time when democracy in Europe was widely seen as being on its way out. He scrupulously defended the nation’s democratic institutions in a time when fascism and authoritarianism were far more intellectually respectable than they are now.
  • The Irish Free State also had full women’s suffrage six years before Britain, a fact that we are constitutionally required to remind them at every possible opportunity.

Cons:

  • Nobody comes through a Civil War with their hands clean, and Cosgrave was no exception. Despite being personally opposed to the death penalty (being on death row will do that to you), during the height of the conflict he ordered many executions, some almost certainly illegal as they were without trial. All in all, almost eighty republicans were executed before the war ended, far more than even the British had executed during the War of Independence.
  • Fathered Liam Cosgrave.

 

“Isn’t he your son in law?”

#2 Jack Lynch

Name: Jack Lynch
Party: Fianna Fáil
Terms: November ’66-March ’73, July ’77-May ’79
So remember when Michael Jordan quit basketball and became a baseball player as depicted in the documentary Space Jam? Imagine if, instead of being awful, he had gone on to become one of the best players in that sport too. Then imagine he ran for election and became one of the most popular presidents in US history. That’s pretty much Jack Lynch.
He was terrib;e

Also, instead of Bugs Bunny, Jack Lynch was aided by Daithí Lacha, Ireland’s first cartoon character. He was terrible.

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Blog Awards

Huh! Wait! What!?

So, Irish blogdom has been thrown into a bit of a tizzy by the sudden decision by the Blog Awards Ireland 2015 to extend voting to midnight September 23rd. Why? We don’t know. They just did. Hence the tizzy.

Tizzy is a funny word. I will say it again. Tizzy.

Also, it seems that people who already voted can vote again. I officially don’t even. This thing is run by insane people. Who I hope aren’t reading this right now.

Anyway. Care to give me a desperate last minute vote? Links is below.

LEMASS

#3: Seán Lemass

Name: Seán Lemass
Party: Fianna Fáil
Terms in office: June ’59-November ‘66
Some professions just lend themselves to producing politicians. Liam Cosgrave, Charles Haughey, Jack Lynch and John A. Costello practiced law. Enda Kenny and DeValera were teachers.  Brian Cowen and W.T. Cosgrave were barmen.
Long before he was Taoiseach, Seán Lemass was an assassin.
Yup.
How did he go from professional homicide specialist to leader of an entire nation? And why do I consider him such a great Taoiseach? Well, that last one should be obvious.
Because I’m afraid of him.
*CLICK*

*CLICK*
“Gulp.”

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#4 Enda Kenny

1
"Welcome, to the desert of the real."

“Welcome, to the desert of the real.”

"What happened?!"

“What happened?!”

“The great flame war of 2015. We don’t know who struck first but we do know that it started when the Unshaved Mouse gave a fairly positive appraisal of Enda Kenny.”

“The great flame war of 2015. We don’t know who struck first but we do know that it started when the Unshaved Mouse gave a mixed to positive appraisal of Enda Kenny.”

"Woah..."

“Whoah…”

Name: Enda Kenny
Party: Fine Gael
Terms in office: March 2011-Present

Stop. Stop right there. Yes you. The one about to leave the wonderfully well-reasoned and dispassionate comment about why I deserve to be molested by porcupines and then set on fire. Yes. I put Enda Kenny in the number four spot. Yes. I did that. But ask yourself this: Who should I have put ahead of him? Cowen? Ahern? Haughey? Big DeValera fan are we? Hmmmmm?

"Whats that? Garret Fitzgerald had good intentions!? My country cant live on good intentions Marge!"

“What’s that? Garret Fitzgerald had GOOD INTENTIONS!? My country can’t live on GOOD INTENTIONS, Marge!”

Bruton? Really? Are you going to get all fired up because I ranked Enda Kenny higher than John Bruton? You wanna be that guy? You want to die on that hill?
"That would be an unjust war?"

“That would be an unjust war.”

So who’s left? Costello? You want me to say that John A. Costello was the fourth best Taoiseach?
"That sounds like a wonderful idea!"

“That sounds like a wonderful idea!”

“Ha! Classic Costello!”

“Ha! Classic Costello!”

Sorry if I seem a little punchy, but attempting a dispassionate evaluation of our current Taoiseach is dangerous work. Alright, so.
Enda Kenny, who is he?
Yes “he”, American readers. Enda is a male name.

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Vote for Us Buttons 300x2505

Last chance to be on the right side of history…

Hi guys. Voting for the Blog Awards Ireland 2015 closes on September 21st so if you have voted for me already, thanks. If you were going to vote for me but haven’t yet now would be a real good time to swoop in and save the day (please click the big black voting button on the right.) And lastly, if you’ve decided that you’re not going to vote for me, well..

this ain't over

"That would be an unjust war?"

#05 John Bruton

Name: John Bruton
Party: Fine Gael
Terms of Office: December ’94-June’97
John Bruton first entered politics when he was elected to the Dáil in 1969, only 22 and barely out of nappies. He later served as Minister for Education under Liam Cosgrave but we won’t hold that against him. To understand how he became Taoiseach we have to re-join the story where we left off, with Labour’s Dick Spring walking out of Albert Reynolds’ government over the Harry Whelahan/Brendan Smyth clusterbollocks. Bruton convinced Spring to return to the batcave and enter a coalition with Fine Gael and the Democratic Left. This gave Bruton a majority in the Dáil and he became Taoiseach without even needing to be elected.
"Just like Gerald Ford."

“Just like Gerald Ford.”

Despite some tensions with Spring, Fine Gael and Labour nonetheless managed to work together to form a government that was, in hindsight, pretty not bad at all. Despite being seen as part of Fine Gael’s more conservative wing, one of Bruton’s first initiatives was the legalisation of divorce. In 1995. Which makes us possibly the only country in the world to have internet before we had divorce.

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“But what we’re trying to show is that prejudice can…”

Captain Planet and the Planeteers: If it’s Doomsday, this must be Belfast

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

Reality, as Stephen Colbert once patiently explained to George W. Bush, has a well-known liberal bias. The flipside of that is that fiction tends to be conservative. In a typical narrative there are good guys, there are bad guys, and there are few problems caused by the latter that can’t be solved by the former punching them repeatedly in the goolies. In the real world the big problems that bedevil mankind tend to be big, messy and complex and fixing them is an absolute slog with no clear-cut right or wrong and often very little visible sign of victory or even progress.
Take, for example, the question of how to best leverage the advances of industrialisation to improve the standard of life for the maximum number of human beings without causing irreparable damage to the bio-sphere and rendering the entire planet and uninhabitable hellscape? That’s a bit of a poser. And how would you dramatise that question, particularly for a young audience? Say, for example, in a thirty minute animated series running for over a hundred episodes?
 To create a cartoon show that deals with this problem maturely and intelligently while still working as a compelling and dramatic piece of entertainment would take something close to genius.
Ted-Turner-9512255-1-402

Yes. That is what it would take.

So around 1990 millionaire Ted Turner decided to create a cartoon show about heroes who took on the issues of environmental devastation and social injustice instead of doing stuff that was fun. It was called Captain Planet and the Planeteers and the premise was this: Gaia (Whoopi Goldberg), the spirit of the Earth, wakes up from a long nap and sees that human beings have been trashing the place for the last thousand years or so (well, maybe if you had actually been around to tell us to knock it off we would have known better, lady). Despite the fact that she was asleep at the switch and this is kinda her mess to clean up as much as anyone’s, she enlists five teenagers with attitude respect for nature and all its living things. They are Kwame (Levar Burton) from Africa, Wheeler (Joey DeDedio) from North America, Linka (Kath Soucie) from the Sovie…I’m sorry, EASTERN EUROPE, Gi (Janice Kawaye) from Asia and Ma-Ti (Scott Menville) from Latin America. She gives them five elemental rings with Kwame, Wheeler, Linka and Gi getting the powers of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water and Ma-Ti getting stuck with the power of Heart because poor Latin America is always the pathetic butt monkey.
“It’s true.”

“It’s true.”

Whenever they’re faced with a threat they can’t defeat alone they summon the Zords combine their power to summon Captain Planet. Who has a green mullet.
Now, as a premise it’s not…terrible. And on paper the show had a lot going for it. The animation was better than a lot of Saturday morning fare of the time and the cast was RIDICULOUSLY high-powered thanks to Turner roping in his Hollywood friends to voice the various villains including Martin Sheen and Meg Ryan back when she was probably the most successful Hollywood actress on the planet. But it also had problems, not least of which was the fact that Captain Planet is, no question, the worst superhero ever to achieve mainstream success.
Why was he so terrible? Was it the puns? The awful puns? The terrible, excruciating, abominable puns? The puns that made you want to curse God for giving you ears? The puns that made you smell colours, taste sounds and gibber in unknown tongues? The puns that made you want to tear off your skin and fold it into a little swan? The puns that made you head to the nearest clock tower with a high-powered rifle and start picking off the fleeing figures below while muttering “There’s Captain Planet. There’s Captain Planet…”?
No, it wasn’t the puns.
I first realised the utter crapitude of Captain Planet  as a child, when I watched the episode “A Good Bomb is Hard to Find” where the Planeteers travel back in time to prevent Doctor Blight from selling a nuclear bomb to Hitler.
Adolf_Hitler_(Captain_Planet)

“Hey boss, how can we make sure people know it’s supposed to be Hitler?” “Hitler had a moustache, didn’t he?” “Yeah.” “Give him a moustache. That way they’ll know.”

Captain Planet comes face to face with Hitler and immediately curls up in a little ball because the hatred coming off him is so strong that it’s a form of pollution. It was at this point that I stood up, pointed an accusing paw at the TV and loudly declared:
“NO! NO! A superhero who comes face to face with Adolf Hitler and does not punch him right in his stupid face is not a superhero! Good day sir!”

“NO! NO! A superhero who comes face to face with Adolf Hitler and does not punch him right in his stupid face is not a superhero! Good day sir!”

“But what we’re trying to show is that prejudice can…”

“But what we’re trying to show is that prejudice can…”

“I SAID “GOOD DAY” SIR!”

“I SAID “GOOD DAY” SIR!”

Think about that for a minute. They created a superhero whose kryptonite is evil. Captain America is one of the greatest superheroes ever because in his very first appearance he punched Hitler right in the face. He didn’t collapse weeping in a puddle because HITLER DIDN’T COME WITH A GODDAMN TRIGGER WARNING!
Warning for: Hatred. Genocide. Inaccurate moustache.

Warning for: Hatred. Genocide. Inaccurate moustache.

As notorious as that episode is, there’s one that (in my  neck of the woods at least) is even more infamous; “If it’s Doomsday, this must be Belfast”, better known here as “The one where the IRA got a nuclear bomb.”
I have never actually seen this one but this thing is legendary in Ireland. I have, no lie, been waiting to do this review all year. I have a feeling this is going to be the greatest experience of my life.
Let’s take a look.

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