Darragh McManus: Paul Rouse has knack for interesting history down to a tee
Fair play to Paul Rouse: historian, writer, broadcaster and proud Offaly GAA man, he's done something I would have assumed was impossible: making golf interesting.
Really - golf. Spiritual home of suburban bores, nerds in slacks, blow-holes in the club bar. But Rouse's potted history of the game (I can't bring myself to call it a sport) on Off the Ball (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 7pm, Sat-Sun 1pm) was genuinely fascinating.
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Some of it was familiar: yes, golf has strong links to business, Scotland, the bourgeoisie. Much was surprising, though, especially when Rouse went off on related tangents.
Did you know that soccer was a middle-class sport until late Victorian times? That a golf-like stick-and-ball game was played in China centuries ago? That mass participation in sport was driven by the Industrial Age and cheaper newspapers? Now you do.
The 1986 meltdown at Chernobyl, Moncrieff (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 2pm) tells us, had a disastrous effect on humans - and an unexpected side-effect on the local dog population. He was speaking to Lucas Hixson, a "radiation specialist and co-founder of the Clean Futures Fund". This non-profit helps communities affected by industrial accidents.
Hixson, a genial American, told Sean that because the city was evacuated within hours, and has remained uninhabited since, the residents' dogs have gone wild. The really interesting thing is that they're not quite feral, even 33 years later.
Long years of domestication must be coded into these animals' DNA: while they don't exactly court human company, they're happy to engage - for food, usually - and aren't dangerous. Another interesting side-note is that, due to predation and "law of the jungle" size differences, smaller breeds have disappeared: the dogs of Chernobyl are now large with, for some reason, very big, pointed ears.
Where is My Mind? (all major streaming outlets, uploaded Mondays) is a new six-part podcast from Niall Breslin, AKA Bressie: musician, TV star and, more recently, a strong advocate for improved mental health. He's not just some celebrity dilettante: Bressie has suffered the sharp edge of anxiety disorders for years, and has just completed a Masters' degree in mindfulness.
So Where is My Mind? - nice nod to the Pixies classic, by the way - uses mindfulness as a practical way of dealing with the manic panic of modern life.
This opener focused on being in the moment; future episodes will look at things like social-media distraction, positive thinking, communication, emotional intelligence and getting perspective. The show is put together very stylishly; more than that, it's an important contribution to a crucial discussion, and a nice antidote to the usual "we're all doomed" media hysteria.