Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Features

Published: Mongrel Magazine, June 2006

The Half-Baked Notions Jumble Sale

Everything's For Sale

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I’m an ideas man. Ideas are my currency. If I’m in a clothes shop and I find a pair of pants I like, I’ll walk up to the counter and suggest the names of some songs that might make good ringtones. For two weeks in the Canaries I’d probably stump up the basis for a workable post-war settlement in Iraq. If I’m owed change, I’ll ask the travel agent how he gets the pistachios out of the closed shells and be on my way. That’s how it works. I’m an ideas man.

Sadly though, a lot of my ideas turn out not to be very good. Or they’re good but I can’t quite get them to work. Or they’re brilliant but I have no fucking clue what to do with them. You see, I’m not really a can-do, know-how, bobs-yer-uncle sort of man… I’m more of an ideas man.

Each of the nine original inventions outlined below have been registered with the Irish patent office. The relevant paperwork is available to view upon request. If you see anything you like, get in contact and we may be able to do business. This is on the level – everything’s for sale!

wireless electricity

wireless electricityI got this idea while out hill-walking near Tourmakeady in Co. Mayo. The countryside is pretty wild out there, with a very small population scattered over a large area. It struck me how inefficient a use of resources it is that we have to physically connect with electric cables each of the tiny homesteads that dots the landscape. If a house is two kilometres from the main road then two kilometres of electrical cable and about one hundred wooden poles are required to connect it to the national grid. In many instances the people living in these houses are elderly couples or bachelor farmers with modest requirements.

The second thing that influenced my thinking here was wireless broadband. If – shall we say – “sources close to” this writer can download the entire new series of the Sopranos out of thin air, before it even appears on television (Vito and Morgan Spurlock – who knew?), then surely Micheal in Partry can boil his kettle without needing hundreds of miles of glorified tin can telephone. Everyone who knows anything about science agrees that wireless electricity is an absolute impossibility. And if the history of good ideas is anything to go by, that’s on its own practically guarantees that this will happen.

Reserve price: €10,000,000 (or 10% of profits in perpetuity)

haircut intervention

hairThis one is pretty self explanatory. After a normal day at the office, you arrive home as usual at half five humming “I’m Walking On Sunshine”. To your surprise, you find that your entire family, your friends and the local parish priest are all gathered in the kitchen. “What’s going on?” you stammer. Your closest friend steps forward and says solemnly: “It’s your haircut, Sandra. We all feel that it’s really, really stupid.” Variations could include ironic moustache intervention, dance routine intervention and roller hockey intervention.

Reserve price: €25

unfinished christy moore song

christymooreLegend and all that he is, Christy hasn’t really done the business in the charts in a while. I think the rot started when he did that song about life being like a voyage and love being like a boat. Suffering Jesus, what was he thinking? Anyway, I got this notion a while back that if I wrote a comeback single for him – something with a bit more fuck-it than he seems to be capable of producing himself these days – then I might be able to get his career back on the right track. This is how far I got:

(rousing acoustic intro)

Well, the politicians in the Dail are smokin’ crystal meth
And Charlie Haughey’s on the lawn, playin’ chess with death*
Paddy’s in a Beamer and Joxer’s in a Jag
And every second window flies the Polish national flag

(Yiiiiiiiiiiooooooooooww!)

Shell are up in Rossport, wantin’ to drill holes
There’s a man from Vladivostok makin’ breakfast rolls
The CIA are on line three, lookin’ for Bertie Ahern
Sayin’ there’s men in orange jumpsuits escaped into the Burren,

Singin’ ooohhhh…

The chorus isn’t set in stone yet, so what you’re seeing here is just provisional. No more than Christy’s politics back in the day, says you. (Yiiiioooooooooooow!) Fierce rowdy crowd we have in tonight altogether. Anyway, here’s the chorus:

Singin’ ooooooooooooooooooooooooh Ballyhaunis
Bally-, Bally-, Bally-, Ballyhaunis
OoooooooOOOOOooooooooooooooooh Ballyhaunis
Bally-, Bally-, Bally-, Ballyhaunis…

It needs work, I’ll be the first to admit.

Reserve price: 50c

* This was written in the early summer of 2006, when Haughey was seriously ill.

excuse hotline

hotlineA few weeks ago, one of my friends arrived in Dublin from Galway on a Friday night. It was to be a flying visit. The next day (Saturday) he rang his girlfriend to explain that he’d been unavoidably detained and would be back Sunday. On Sunday he said his car had been clamped and he’d be down Monday. On Monday he said there’d been a small fire in the clampers office and, long-story-short, he’d be down Tuesday. On the Tuesday I called his girlfriend saying my name was Dr Patel and I was calling from Athlone General Hospital… You get the picture.

We got to thinking: Shouldn’t there be a service out there that duplicitous persons, such as my friend, can turn to in these situations? Competent professionals who’ll listen, ask pertinent questions and – drawing on a database of original, plausible excuses – come up with something that, at the very least, doesn’t insult the girl’s intelligence? For a few extra euros, couldn’t they also provide corroborating evidence to back up this story? Medical discharge papers, fake newspaper headlines, thank you notes from Pope Benedict XVI on Vatican headed paper – that sort of thing. Think about it. No more christenings, no more funerals and all the sick days you could ever want – this is an idea with boundless potential.

Reserve price: €50

potato peel challenge

potato peelPotato Peel Challenge is a Reality TV show that I’ve had in development for a couple of months now. The concept is ingeniously simple. We take ten contestants, each handpicked to represent areas in Britain with particularly irritating accents – Liverpool, Birmingham, Wales etc. (If it’s produced in Ireland, I’d probably have to insist on an all-Cork cast.) We lock these contestants into a bunker with the legendary Jean Pierre Juppe, who will instruct them in how to peel potatoes to the highest professional standards. The Frenchman has peeled potatoes in some of the world’s finest restaurants and is passionately committed to his art. But he is incapable of accepting mediocrity from those who study under him. So expect waterworks aplenty as Juppe tears apart his pupils’ inept peeling techniques on live television.

Incidentally, yes, the asking price here is rather high. But keep in mind that I’ve already had firm expressions of interest from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, RTE and TV3 ,and that the rights to Celebrity Potato Peel Challenge are also included.

Reserve price: €3.1 million

nazi punk infiltration scheme

nazi punkIt was the summer of 2004. The sun was shining. Life was good. But beneath that rosy façade there lurked a menace which threatened the survival of this island nation and our way of life. That menace was Irish neo-Nazi black metal. More specifically, that menace was anonymous persons posting on Irish heavy metal forums claiming to be neo-Nazi black metallers. (More often than not they got laughed at by other posters and went away in a sulk.) This shit obviously ran deep. In the crusading spirit for which it is renowned, Mongrel immediately dispatched two of its most dedicated reporters, Larry Ryan and myself, to investigate.

After a few minutes of intensive research, some tea, and a selection of digestive biscuits, we decided on a strategy. We could identify only one act on the Irish NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal) scene with even vaguely convincing claims to being a real band. Ketzer had their own website (now gone, sadly), creepy cod-mythological aliases, hilarious costumes and an unlistenable MP3 called ‘The Blessing of Racial Holy War’. We emailed them to see if they’d like to do an interview with us. They didn’t reply.

Undeterred – well, very nearly deterred, but not quite deterred – we emailed them again. This time I mentioned that if they wanted to drop by our office there might be a few cans of beer floating about the place. Call it a hunch, but I really thought that that might be the clincher. (In retrospect, it was not my finest hour as either a journalist or a responsible adult.) Whether it was because they knew we were really a bunch of race traitors, or because they couldn’t get out on a school night, we would never discover. But Ketzer never got back to us about that interview.

This was how Declan Regan came into the picture. Regan was originally just a Hotmail address, an alias we concocted so that we could post on irish-nationalism.com – a (now defunct) website, frequented by members of Ketzer. But he became to me an almost romantic figure – a vulnerable and politically naïve young man who slipped through the cracks of an uncaring society and, embittered, became seduced by the easy answers of the far right. Soon he was lashing out against the system the only way he knew how – through the brutal white power stylings of his band Erin’s Sword.

To our disappointment though, the Irish NSBM fraternity did not accept Erin’s Sword straight off. They made it clear that if we were ever going to make it past just posting on their website we would need to produce some solid evidence that we were for real, and not just some more idiot investigative journalists looking for a story. So, with Michael McDowell’s citizenship referendum of June 2004 still fresh in the memory, Larry penned the utterly brilliant Blood Referendum (chorus: “Blood referendum / Blood referendum / What we need is a blood referendum”). And for a short time we seriously considered trying to record it. We never did though and the Declan Regan project was abandoned.

People have often assumed that the reason for this was because we were too lazy or scared to really infiltrate the Nationalist Socialist Black Metal scene. Truthfully, it was because, knowing Larry as I do, I knew that if he successfully infiltrated the National Socialist Black Metal scene he wouldn’t stop until it was over. He would go Deep Cover, with fucked up consequences for all concerned. For your money here you’ll get all of Declan Regan’s logins, the publishing rights to the song Blood Referendum and, of course, creative control of Erin’s Sword.

Reserve price: €25

iNap

200140664-001Have you ever been handed the opportunity to have a much needed nap and not been able to take advantage of it? On a transatlantic flight last summer I sat grimfaced through Be Cool, Guess Who, Hitch and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous without managing a yawn, knowing there had to be a better way. Then it hit me! What if I could upload the 10,000 most refreshing naps I’ve ever had onto the harddrive of my computer? Not only that, what if I could then copy them onto a portable device and access them whenever I wanted? Like that Christmas Day when I dozed off during Trivial Pursuit, dreamed I was footing turf with Bibi Baskin, and then woke up just as Die Hard was starting. Imagine if I could have that nap again any time I wanted. What a glorious day that would be for mankind.

Reserve price: €20

unfinished screenplay

cropped picAnother project that promised much but, ultimately, failed to deliver. The Stoneybatter Trilogy was to be the epic story of an ambitious young man from the west of Ireland who comes up against a series of obstacles and challenges. Unfortunately, due to competing commitments and a packed schedule, I never actually worked out what the young man’s ambitions were, let alone what the obstacles and challenges that stood in their way might be. Consequently, The Stoneybatter Trilogy is a bit light on story.

THE STONEYBATTER TRILOGY

Part 1 – The Batter

[1. INT. STONEYBATTER. DAY]

A man bursts into the room. He is OWEN BURKE, twentysomething, with rugged good looks… Well, with rugged looks… Well, let’s just say he has looks. Does it matter what kind of looks they are? He is dynamic, driven, decisive.

BURKE
[decisively]
That’s it. I’m gonna do it. I’m finally gonna do it. As God is my witness!

His flatmate, ED SCULLY is watching some moronic documentary about how Nostradamus invented the pyramids. He is a dour character, with dogmatic opinions concerning the refrigeration of milk.

SCULLY
Huh?

BURKE
That thing I was just talking about that needs doing… I’m going to do it.

Pause.

BURKE
[contd., less decisive]
You know, the thing I was talking about before… that I’ve always wanted to… D’you remember me sayin’?

SCULLY
[non-committal]
Right, yeah.

BURKE sits down at the computer. Gazes at the screen for a moment. Stands up again. Raps his fingers on the table. There is a long pause.

Finally, SCULLY looks up.

SCULLY
Here, that Fulham v West Brom game would be just starting if you wanted to…

BURKE
[instantly]
Christ, I’d almost forgotten. To the pub-mobile!

Both exit hastily.

[2. EXT. STONEYBATTER. DAY.]

BURKE and SCULLY hurry down the street, away from the camera.

SCULLY
By the way, you still owe me fifty bucks from last night.

BURKE
Fuck off. I explained Switzerland’s refined proportional representation system, didn’t I?

SCULLY
No, you didn’t. You said something about cantons, then you started roaring about the Black and Tans.

BURKE
Ah, you got the gist of it.

SCULLY
Well, I’m just sayin’. I wasn’t one bit happy with it. And neither was the taxi driver.

BURKE
Ah, shut up…

They disappear into The Belfry.

THE END

Bids start: €25,000

the da vinci code: the musical

Leonardo_da_VinciClose your eyes for a moment, and let me share with you my unique vision for how The Da Vinci Code: The Musical might unfold… On second thoughts, open your eyes again. This is a magazine article. What was I thinking? Anyway, the theatre is in darkness. A dramatic overture swells to a dramatic crescendo. The lights come up and a massive chorus of dancers emerge, twirling and kicking to beat the band. The stage is set: Over the next four-and-a-half hours Tom Hanks will battle it out with an albino Dolph Lundgren lookalike in the race to solve this baffling two thousand year old riddle: Was Jesus Christ’s real Dad? Was it God the everloving father? Or Amos the singing leper?

Okay, I admit it. I’ve never actually read the The Da Vinci Code or seen the film. But I’ve sure as shit bluffed my way through conversations about it. I’ve argued the toss with friends, co-workers, taxi drivers and radio phone-in hosts. But staging a lavish Broadway musical is where I would draw the line, because I just know I’d trip up somewhere. The sad truth though is that, of all ideas I’ve come up with here, the Da Vinci Code: The Musical is the only one that’s likely to see the light of day. Baring that in mind, I wish to point out that following URLs are all currently unregistered:

http://www.thedavincicode-themusical.com/

http://www.thedavincicodemusical.com/

http://www.thedavincimusical.com/

Reserve price: This one’s on me. Go for it!

[Postscript: When this article first appeared, Newstalk invited me on to discuss my wireless electricity idea with some Oxford Professor of Thermonuclear Physics (or something). He basically said that my idea could not, and would not, ever work. Ever. I lamely countered that all major scientific advances were at one time considered impossible. He in turn countered that I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I conceded the point.

So you can imagine I was rather tickled to read this in the Guardian in January 2009. Yo, Powerbeam Inc… Where’s my fucking cheque?]

[Post-postscript: Re-reading this now, I’m not entirely sure why I was auctioning these ideas off for money. If I’m an ideas man, shouldn’t I have been swapping them for other ideas?

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