Wednesday 18 October 2017

Radio - Space: the final frontier in the war of the sexes

Dara Ó Briain
Dara Ó Briain
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

I once interviewed Dara Ó Briain and it was, in a roundabout sort of way, a slightly surreal experience - because he was exactly as I'd expected. Talking to someone whose name and face and personality you think you know, a part of the brain expects the reality to be different: that they'll be not as funny as on telly, or funnier, or nicer, or not as nice, or whatever.

Ó Briain, though, was/is every bit as clever, amusing and sound as he comes across on screen. And this was proven again on The Ray D'Arcy Show (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 3pm).

The Wicklow man was on mainly to promote a charity show, on St Patrick's Day, in aid of Comic Relief, and his chat with D'Arcy also ranged over various other matters. He's such a good conversationalist and raconteur that the two men could have been literally talking about two flies going up the wall, and you'd be entertained.

The funniest bit was his description of playing a bit of hurling at Lords, the spiritual home of English cricket. (I'm not sure which is stranger, hurling at Lords or a Wicklow man wielding a camán.)

The most interesting part was when he touched on the space exploration stuff he's done with Professor Brian Cox and others. I love anything to do with outer space: it's all so fascinating and wondrous and awe-inspiring.

It's telling, though, that this was two men. In my experience, while many men get totally geeky about space exploration, most women seem to find it boring and pointless. In any of my acquaintances, you can almost see their eyes glazing over whenever anything to do with space is mentioned.

Obviously I'm sure there are some women out there who love space and some men who couldn't care less; I'm speaking in generalities. But I have never - and I mean never - personally met a woman who had anything but total indifference to the whole endeavour. We're talking 0pc here.

I was blabbering on about the Pillars of Creation to someone recently - literally blabbering, I was so excited - and she almost slipped into a coma, she found it so uninteresting. Another woman told me she thinks space exploration was just invented to give nerds a job in the media. (Which is way unfair.)

Is it because we read comics featuring the likes of Dan Dare as a kid? Is it caused by some 'wandering and pioneering' gene? Is it because we're big babies who like looking at cool stuff like lasers and rocket boosters and doors that open with a "zhoosh" sound?

Yeah, that's probably it.

Meanwhile, William Shatner - yes, the William Shatner - popped up on We are the Martians (BBC Radio 4, Tue 11am), a new series about the red planet. Captain Kirk took us on a very brisk background tour of Mars, packed with interesting factoids.

Did you know, for instance, that the Romans named the planet Mars because its distinctive red colour suggested bloodshed and thus put them in mind of Mars, their God of War? Or that the red is actually due to iron in the Martian dust reacting with oxygen?

Truly fascinating. Right, lads?

The ever-excellent Near FM began its own four-part series this week, The Irish Latin American Connection (Mon 2pm), which explores those of our compatriots who have lived and achieved great things over there in the recent past. This first episode looked at human-rights activists in Mexico and Ecuador.

Future programmes will address food, debt relief, international aid, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, Roger Casement's time in Peru and much more. Near FM really do put other local stations (and more than a few nationals) to shame.

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