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Daragh McManus: Butt out, busybodies

In their relentless bid to stop us enjoying one of life's most sublime pleasures -- no, not that one -- anti-smoking lobbyists have decided to up the 'shock and awe' factor. (As in, they point out some shocking fact, and smokers just go "Aw, who cares?" and carry on puffing.)

These puritanical busybodies won't rest until grown adults of sound mind are no longer allowed to indulge in smoking -- a drug that, while admittedly bad for your physical health, has virtually no detrimental social effects. Nobody ever brained their best pal, beat up their wife, robbed a stereo, crashed their car, missed work or dropped out of school because of nicotine. Which makes it more preferable to 99% of all other drugs, legal or illegal.

Hell, even coffee -- which I also love with a passion bordering on obsessive -- can stop you sleeping properly and make you a bit tetchy. Whereas the old gaspers, aah ... they can transform a bitter, unpleasant cave-troll into the reincarnation of David Niven.

Still, meddlers are gonna meddle. The HSE has just released this STARK AND TERRIFYING WARNING: half of all smokers will die from their habit.

Really? Well, here's another scarifying biological fact: all non-smokers will die of something.

In fact -- allow me some capital letters again here -- YOU ARE GUARANTEED TO DIE.

It's called mortality, and it gets all of us eventually. Doesn't matter how much time you spend tutting censoriously and looking down on smokers: you're dog meat, pal. You're worm food. You're brown bread.

So how does that make you feel? Would you like a nice ciggie to calm your nerves?


Someone asked recently if newspaper columnist Liz Jones is a real person or some sort of construct. It's a good question: she does seem, a lot of the time, like a clever media in-joke, a bit of meta-textual tomfoolery.

I mean, the woman appears to be authentically, 100% barmy. Her columns are a bizarre hotchpotch of name-dropping, non-sequiturs, chronic flakiness and solipsism.

In January, for instance, she retraced the last steps of murder victim Jo Yeates in Bristol, seeming more concerned with trivialities than the fact someone was dead. Regarding the bar Jo drank in that night, Liz lamented: "I wish she had spent what were probably her last hours on earth somewhere lovelier."

Beyond parody, really. However, she has just written a piece that made me feel something for this vacuous eejit I never suspected I could: sympathy.

Liz spent over 13,000 of yer Great British pounds on plastic surgery, including such disgusting-sounding procedures as incisions behind ears and under-eye fat being excised.

Obviously all this was self-inflicted for reasons of tedious vanity.

So why my sympathy? Because Jones may be an eejit, but she clearly has low self-esteem and a desperate need to feel attractive and loved. Except now, after shelling out on surgery, she looks worse than before.


Apparently the current 'gay couple' storyline in EastEnders is causing great offence to viewers. Well, some viewers. The stupid, ignorant ones.

Everyone else cracks on with their life and doesn't get too worked up about what two invented people might be doing in their fictional bedroom, situated in a wholly non-existent suburb of East Lahndahn.

Besides, aren't there more annoying things on EastEnders -- indeed all soaps -- than the fact that two male characters fancy each other?

Why aren't these idiots complaining about the fact that every single soap is indistinguishable from every other soap, and every episode within each is so similar they could be swapped around and broadcast out of sequence and nobody would notice?

Why aren't they organising protest campaigns about the banal dialogue, the lame acting, the fact that nobody can interact for more than five seconds without shouting at each other?

Why aren't they looking for a ban on grown-ups religiously following this junk even as it rots their brain, cell by cell, like a mouldy cabbage left out in the sun?

Jeez, people. Ever heard of priorities?


A flock of birds attacks a car park. A monkey scratches two girls. A moose bursts through the window of a retirement home. And a presumably insane man claims he has been turned into a werewolf by a wolf scratch.

No, it's not the plotline for that new David Lynch movie (though I might email him a quick pitch anyway). These are four real stories, taken from a list of 10, on a news website the other day.

What does it all mean? It means the animals are finally striking back against their prime enemy: you and me. Not you and me specifically, you know, but the whole human race. Don't feel bad about it personally or anything.

After millennia of being used, abused, eaten, beaten, hunted, caged, and generally treated like, eh, doggy-doo by homo sapiens, all the other critters of Earth have obviously had enough. I expect a rapid escalation in hostilities, resulting in the eventual relinquishing of human dominion of the planet.

Mummy! Help! Does anyone have David Attenborough's number? They're bound to leave him alone.


American writer-director Richard Linklater is, for me, the finest talent of his generation, and one of the most original voices in film history.

Thinking, debating, questioning and imagining, Linklater is more like a philosopher with a camera than a traditional filmmaker.

His finest work is the inimitable, mind-blowing Waking Life (2000, pictured above), a meditation on existence, consciousness and meaning. And the dreamy, hazy animation (live footage reworked by artists) makes it as visually stunning as it is thematically unique.

The man is a genius!

Irish Independent