Friday 20 April 2018

Radio: Brain-salad surgery and Ronan's family cooking

Antonio Egas Moniz
Antonio Egas Moniz

Damian Corless

And the award for the most disputed Nobel Prize ever given goes to... Portugal's António Egas Moniz who, in 1949, got the gong for coming up in 1935 with the world's first lobotomy. Newstalk's ever-wonderful Saturday science show Futureproof delved into the grisly details of this barbaric procedure in a documentary last weekend.

As host Jonathan McCrae explained, because of Moniz's severe gout inflaming his hands, the task of performing the first lobotomy fell to his assistant, who drilled two holes into the skull of an unfortunate 60-year-old woman and injected pure alcohol into the frontal lobes of her brain.

What became of that woman is lost in the mists of time and can't have been good, but she set Moniz on the road to wealth and celebrity as the lobotomy became the weapon of choice against those who seemed a bit gone in the head.

One of the best known victims was JFK's sister, Rosemary Kennedy, who was put under the knife in 1941 at the tender age of 23, which rendered her incontinent and mute, reduced to the mental age of a two-year-old until her death, 65 years later.

For two decades, the lobotomy was embraced by the medical establishment as a miracle cure against conditions such as wild mood swings and violent upheavals, even though it was evident that a large proportion of those who went through the process were turned into vegetables.

Initially, Moniz dismissed the obvious side effects - incontinence, memory loss, zombieism - as temporary. With the passage of time, it turned out that the immense damage was permanent. It was eventually phased out in favour of psychoactive drug treatments, which were advertised with brio as "chemical lobotomies", "as good as a lobotomy".

The Futureproof documentary probed Ireland's record, and found that one doctor would perform two or three on Saturday mornings, amounting to several hundred through the 1940s and 1950s.

He was joined by at least two other medics in his unsavoury crusade. Attempts by the documentary crew to dig deeper were frustrated by an omerta by all involved.

Futureproof moves to a new noon time slot from today. It is the appliance of science to radio as good as you'll hear.

And sticking with Newstalk, here's a poser: what does the sports magazine Off The Ball have in common with Adam & The Ants, The Human League and Southampton FC?

Well, in the case of the first two, the 'talent' jumped ship, seemingly leaving the outfit stranded, only to see the abandoned party stage a spectacular resurrection. Ditto Southampton, who managed to sell all their best players last year and still wind up having their best Premier League season ever. And ditto too to Off The Ball. Despite losing their first choice squad to RTE, the team have regrouped to remain, by far, the best sports show on the airwaves.

On bank holiday Monday, RTE ran a lunchtime sports quiz. It was good humoured and fine, a Middle Ireland version of the BBC's A Question Of Sport, but for anyone acquainted with Newstalk's Friday Crappy Quiz, it was just a little tame.

The Crappy Quiz is the closest we have on radio to Vic & Bob's Shooting Stars.

The questions are more or less irrelevant, just a starting point for a good shouting match.

Typical answers include: "That's a stupid question. No-one's going to know that"; and "That's nonsense. There's absolutely no thought put into these questions."

The roustabout is funnier than it sounds here in cold print.

And finally to Ronan Collins, whose weekday pre-lunch show is one of our undervalued national treasures. Ronan's brief is to fill in the gap between two slots of current affairs with a soft cushion of MOR.

It could be the wallpaper hour, but Ronan does it "with a twist", to borrow a phrase from Denise of The Royle Ramily. The presenter is such a connoisseur that he reliably serves up the very tastiest morsels from a restricted menu.

When was the last time anyone ever heard the great proto-disco track 'You Can Do Magic' by Limmie & Family Cooking, or anything by the singer-songwriter Arthur Alexander, largely forgotten today but worshipped by The Beatles and The Stones, and covered by Elvis. Ronan knows his stuff.

A class act.

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