My Blog – August 2019

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We’re still in the grip of Summer and I have nothing better to do than continue to support our local and tourist industries by scaring off any potential visitors with my copy pasted anecdotes. Trawling the web, I found some more of those ‘You know you’re from X when…’ sites and blogs, so I’ve nicked a few more of the better questions and bits and bobs and am commenting on them below – they’re specific to Northern Ireland and/or Belfast.

You get offended when other nationalities don’t understand our extremely complex political situation.

I would have thought the complete opposite was true. Reading the article that this first set of questions comes from… it’s a bit wanky and comes off as written by someone from the Malone Road. Or Hollywood (the posh areas where realism is a fantasy). You know, a rich person who moved to London when they turned 18 but still likes to pretend they had a normal Northern Ireland upbringing when instead they had a bland could-be-anywhere-middle-class upbringing. In other words, they have heard and seen things whispered by their parents and although they didn’t experience it for themselves, they think they’re patriotic enough to write about home with just an ounce of sardonic ‘wit’. In other other words, they haven’t a fucking clue. Still, it’s probably better than whatever the hell it is I’m trying to write. I don’t expect anyone to understand or care about our political situation. We don’t understand it ourselves. It’s nonsense, it’s beyond comprehension because it’s so absurd, and it’s not worth talking about.

You have an obsession with “flegs”.

Flegs, you may have guessed, are flags. We have a rich history of love and hate when it comes to flags, all of it completely unnecessary. We argue if they’re there, if they’re not, if they’re the wrong colour etc. I’d prefer if no country had a flag, but as I’ve said before I just don’t understand nationalism or patriotism or any of it. I don’t have any pride for my Country… it’s just an arbitrary place, like any other. People, and their achievements I can be proud of. If they happen to make a success of themselves coming from a small country versus a bigger country, then yeah I can see that possibly being a different kind of achievement, but is it bigger? Better? No, of course not. 90% of anything is luck.

You don’t understand why people are so concerned about riots.

Yes, it’s always quite funny when you see the media freak outs about riots in the US or England or wherever. Or even when they’re covering our ones. If there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s riots. Every year, usually in the spring and summer months, but why not around Halloween too, the streets are filled with flaming buses, cars are used as trampolines, sofas are dragged onto rooftops, and we all beat the shit out of everything in sight until the firemen come to hose us away. I’m only slightly exaggerating, in that it’s not usually me doing it. Sometimes I’m just taking a dander through the middle of it, having a drink and laughing sadly at the mess. It’s nothing to be scared of guys, just dive in.

You are great at sports. Or at least the ones you can play in a pub.

I was never great at sports, and I think our sporting achievements our wildly overrated. Most people from here will use the same phrases when it comes to our sports stars – we overachieve, we punch above our weight – but it’s bullshit. We’ve had a couple of decent footballers, a golfer, some boxers in divisions no-one cares about, and the rest are sports hardly anyone watches. We do have a terrific history of motorcyclists, but again no-one mentions that. I’ve never been good at sports, though I imagine I could have been had I put in any effort. I was lightening fast and was completely tireless and I am extremely perceptive. This entry seems to be just another extension of the old ‘we play darts and pool’ cliche. We do. Doesn’t mean we’re any good.

You tell a story that was never intended to be funny and people laugh hysterically.

I have never experienced or heard of this ever. Not without everyone involved being completely off their tits.

Even the slightest glimmer of sunshine is an excuse for you to get the guns out.

For once, guns doesn’t actually mean guns. Because we always have those out. No, this means arms, which of course usually means guns too. The thing is, most people here are either obese or weedy skinny types, so thin you can smell the shit through them. In recent years there has been an uptake in gym types – people obsessed with bulking up. It’s hilarious. You know most of these guys are psychopaths or mummy’s boys and they are not doing it to better themselves or get stronger or healthier. They’re doing it because that’s what magazines tell them to and because it’s fashionable. In other words, it’s false and they’re the same useless ballbegs they’ve always been, scared of actual work. Off track there, but yes, as soon as the clouds clear, it’s t-shirts and shorts time. I pretty much only wear t-shirts, all year long. It’s always funny when someone from a warm climate sees me wandering around outside in a t-shirt when they have a shirt, jumper, coat, and scarf on. I’m just… always warm. Must be in my blood. I admit I take it to extremes, like when it’s winter and everyone around me on the train is shivering and coughing, I’m stripping off to the bare minimum layer of clothing and fanning myself.

You react to compliments with suspicion.

I’d go further and say we react to anything with suspicion. We don’t trust anyone, we’re always watching everyone else, and always moaning about everything. Hence this post, I guess. Compliments are strange, especially from an outsider. What the hell are you talking about – it’s just a thing that I did? What are trying to say? Do you… do you want to sex me? Yeah, compliments don’t work when we have absolutely nothing to be proud of.

You assume that if it isn’t fried, it’s practically vegetarian.

I don’t understand this either. I don’t think we eat fried food more or less than anyone else. Our diet is mostly rubbish, and mostly spuds. We do have The Ulster Fry, but I don’t like it. Fried bread and the like is just boke to me.

You refer to everything, regardless of size, as “wee”.

Aww, look Billy at the wee lion eating the elephant. Yes, almost everything is wee. Unless we’re talking breasts. It’s an all-purpose adjective which never fails.

You’re Worried About How Long The Immersion Heater Has Been On.

Yes, this is definitely a thing. Even in my house, even today. And still, I don’t even know what the hell and Immersion Heater is. Yes, I know what it does, but why is it called that? Why is it so important? I have no idea. Oh yeah, just say Immersion – no need to add the Heater bit.

When you hate pigeons.

No, I don’t get this either. What’s wrong with pigeons?

When you’ve had a sausage roll bap for breakfast?

No, never heard of this.

When you know what 15s are.

Is this a Northern Ireland thing? I know they’re everywhere here, but I assumed they were just a simple bun and that other countries had them too. If not – it’s a bun which mooshes together biscuits and cherry and coconut etc.

When you enjoy eating soda bread.

Yes, most people here do. I don’t, it’s rank. Is ‘rank’ a thing in others places? It means mingin’. Is ‘mingin’ a thing? It means disgusting. Y’all are learning a lot.

When you complain the weather isn’t as bad as it was going to be.

I can see what this is getting at. We think the worst, we expect the worst, and then when the worst doesn’t happen we’re like ‘see, I knew you were talking ballax’. We are a very negative people. It seeps into every part of our culture, right down to the way we speak. It’s like thousands of years of being beat down or following orders for fear of being shot or eaten or whatever. The way we phrase our questions or responses is usually with some form of negative – ‘it’s not bad’ instead of good. ‘Are you not coming out tonight?’ instead of just ‘are you’. We take pleasure in defiance and in knowing someone fucked up or in knowings things could always get worse. It’s why if our national team is being beaten by six goals or something, and we score one we celebrate like we’ve won the whole thing.

When your answer to a crisis is a cup of tea.

This isn’t just a Northern Ireland thing, but it’s everywhere here and I can’t stand it. I cannot fathom why anyone chooses to drink tea. Nothing is held up on a pedestal as much as tea, and I wish the whole thing was banned. I often think every single one of our problems as a nation would be solved if we didn’t have tea because it gets in the way of everything. One more thing I can’t stand, that all these articles have in common – Norn Iron. FUCK OFF. I hate that term to the point that hearing it makes me nauseous.

When you text and email instead of talking on the phone.

This is utter lazy bullshit too. Tell me a country that doesn’t do this. A better example would be when you outright refuse to answer the phone or the door, and get unnerved when someone calls, because why the hell would someone be wanting to talk to me? Now that’s a Northern Irish thing.

We get offended when an outsider slegs the country.

Nope, by all means, sleg away. It’s a shithole.

We love Sukie.

I guess. I don’t think it was big when I was young, or at least I never had it. But it’s everywhere now. It’s a fruit juice made by a local company. No-one knows how it’s pronounced, so I just go all in and call it ‘sucky’.

Assume everyone from outside NI is from ‘the country’.

I can only assume this is a typo, and they meant outside Belfast. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. I’ve never heard or heard of anyone referring to another country as ‘the country’ and I’d say we have a pretty good grasp of world geography, as long as you’ve been to school. Incidentally, we have the best schools in Britain, apparently.

When Crisp Sandwiches are our lunch most days.

They are for me. Or at least I always add crisps to whatever sandwich I have.

Not being the slightest bit scared when there is a bomb alert.

Similar to the riot one, we get ‘bomb scares’ all the time – that is, when someone calls the police or wherever to say they’ve placed a bomb somewhere. So the place gets shut down and the police or military check it out – either it’s a hoax, or a home-grown explosive, or an actual bomb. Either way we don’t care, unless it stops us from getting home.

When you walk past three bottles of Buckie on your way home.

Yes, Buckfast is the drink of choice for most steeks. And the pavement is their bin of choice. Also – their toilet.

Using grammar in the precise opposite of its definition.

So this one I made up myself, but you’ll hear and notice this example every day. ‘I seen him’ instead of ‘I saw him’ but ‘I’ve saw this already’ instead of ‘I’ve seen’. Same goes for did and done. Saying ‘yous’ or indeed ‘yousuns’ instead of ‘you’ as a plural. This one makes sense as there is no reason why you should be used as both singular and plural. When looking outside at the immense black cloud approaching, you may hear ‘I doubt it’s going to rain’ meaning ‘I think it’s going to rain’. Doubt, meaning the exact opposite of doubt. Other countries have their own examples – The Simpsons had Dr Nick do a bit in one episode where he talks about flammable and inflammable which is pretty funny. One of the most common US ones which pisses me off most days is ‘I could care less’, which you see on almost every online conversation every day. What they actually mean is ‘I could NOT care less’. It’s completely bizarre. Yes means No, up means down, and this post is over.

Let us know in the comments if you have any similar lists of questions based on your city or country – are there any similarities between places or unique cultural oddities?

Reminder on blog links:

A-Z Reviews: This category is a single post with links to all my movie, music, and book reviews. It’s the best place to start and you can check it via THIS LINK. I try to update it regularly.

Amazon Vine: I’m a member of Amazon Vine, a program where Amazon’s best reviewers are provided with free products for reviewing purposes in order to drum up publicity before the product is released to the general public. You can find links to the Products I have received here.

Book Reviews: Something I don’t really do anymore, even though I still read plenty. I need to get back into this, but movies are so much easier to review. Maybe I’ll come up with a different format.

Blogging: A new category! This is where I’m going to put this exact post, and the others like it to follow.

Changing The Past: This category is where I go back through every Oscars since 1960 and pick my winners from almost every category. I pick my winners from the official choices, and then I add my own personal list of who I feel should have been nominated. It’s based on personal preference, but it’s also not based on any of the usual Academy political nonsense and I bypass most of their archaic rules. It’s not quite me just picking my favourite films, but it’s close.

DVD Reviews: I should probably just change this to Movie Reviews. It’s what you would expect – reviews of the movies I’ve watched. I’m not a big fan of reviewing every new film which comes out – there are a billion other blogs out there all doing the same thing. I don’t often watch new movies as they release, unless they’re streaming, so instead you’ll be getting reviews of those films a few years later, once I get around to them. Here you will find horror, actions, classics, foreign, indie, sci-fi, comedy, drama – everything. A word of warning – I frequently post reviews that I wrote almost twenty years ago when I didn’t have a clue – they’re crap, but I add them here in all of their badly written glory.

Essential Movies: I’ve only published an intro post for this category, but I have written some other posts for the future. I’m basically questioning what actually makes a film Essential, because it cannot be a definitive statement. What’s essential for you, may not be for me, so I’ve broken down the definition into a few generic user types, then gone through some lists of the best movies of each year to see which ones are essential for each viewer. It’s pretty boring, and I already regret starting it, but that’s me.

Foreign Cinema Introduction: This category hasn’t been published yet, but once again it exists and I’ve written a bunch of posts for the future. The idea came from my many years of hearing people I know IRL or on the internet dismissing anything not mass-produced by Hollywood. If you only watch movies made in the USA – you’re not a movie fan, it’s as simple as that. I follow a few Facebook fan pages and blogs on WordPress which completely dismiss foreign movies – it’s ridiculous as you are missing out on many of the best films ever made. More than that, you are missing out on films which I know for a fact you will adore. So, this is me breaking down all that bullshit about subtitles, about foreign stuff being boring and every other excuse you’ve ever heard, while giving some very basic thoughts and introductions of the various countries of the world from a film perspective.

Lists: Here I post lists – some with comments, some without. All sorts of lists – from monthly previews of the year’s upcoming movies, to my favourite movies by actor or director, to best horror anthologies, best Christmas songs and TV shows, best movies for Halloween, my favourite episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, my ranking of Bond movies, songs, and girls, my favourite albums by decade, my favourite songs by artist, bands I’ve seen live etc. I love lists.

Manic Street Preachers Song By Song: One of the first reasons I started this blog was to try to spread the Gospel of my favourite band, especially as they are not well known outside of Britain. Defo not in the US. Then I found out there were other blogs doing it too. Ah well. These are my thoughts on each song. Don’t know them? They are a Welsh rock band who have been around since the late 80s, early 90s. They are highly political and intelligent, on the left wing, and they are probably the finest lyricists in the world. Their main lyricist suffered from various addictions and mental health issues and disappeared in 1995 – although there have been sightings, nobody has ever confirmed they have seen him and no body has ever been found, though the band, fans, and family are still looking. After three albums with him, they suddenly became commercially successful after his disappearance. If you like rock music… if you like music in general, please give them a try.

Music Reviews: This is the same as movies, except for music. Reviews of albums I’ve always loved, as reviews of albums as I’m listening as a virgin. I take a look at the Top Ten UK Charts from a random month in each year and review each song, while giving my own alternative ten songs from the same year, I am reviewing albums that I’ve never heard by artists I am familiar with – filling the gaps in those discographies. I’m listening to spin-offs of my favourite bands, I’m reviewing the Disney soundtracks. I was a metal and grunge kid, but also had a love for the best in 80 pop when I was young, so I like to listen to anything though since around the mid-noughties chart music has gone from extremely bad to entirely worthless.

The Nightman Scoring System ©: This is something I truly love, but something which nobody really pays attention to. You’ll notice in my reviews I don’t give a score. I just talk about the thing I’m reviewing. Scores are arbitrary and when given, people jump to the score and form a conclusion and a bias. If they read the content of the review, there will be a better discussion. That made me think, in a very unprofessional, semi-scientific, ill-examined way, to come up with a fair, universal scoring system which tries to avoid personal and systematic bias as much as possible. If you look at sites like Rotten Tomatoes which are stupidly becoming reference points for quality or to convince you to watch something, or used by advertisers, it’s a completely flawed system. Anyone can post whatever they like, and drag down or push up an average. The same used to happen on IMDb. There are a lot of posts online recently about the disparity between Critical and Audience consensus on RT and it leads to more worthless arguments, because if there’s something the world needs more of these days, it’s people fighting online about pointless stuff.

I devised two scoring systems – one for movies and one for music. To use it, you have to follow the guidelines and be honest. If you’re not honest, it will be obvious, and your review won’t be valid. For both music and and movies, I break down the scoring into twenty different categories of equal weighting – out of five, for a total out of 100. Categories include acting, directing, sales; or for music – charts, influence, musical ability etc. Say you hate the Marvel movies or The Beatles. You can’t score them a 1 out of five in the Sales category because both of those were factually monster hits – they can really only be 5 out of five. In other words, some of what is opinion and bias is removed from the equation. In the same vein, the disparity between critics and audiences is reduced – typically you may think that a movie or music critic care more about how arty or original or influential something is, while the audience might care how many boobs are seen or how catchy the melody is. I’m making sweeping assumptions – but you get the idea – each category is equally weighted so that influence is only worth five points, chart performance is only worth five points, directing, advertising, whatever – each is five points. I’d love to see people use this, and I’d love to run an experiment where a group of people each use the system to score the same thing, and see how similar or different the results are. I’m positive the average would be a more true reflection than anything on RT or IMDB or anywhere else. The only issue with it is, it’s more suited to scoring once something has been out there for a while rather than a pre-release or first week review.

Nightman’s Favourite Films By Year: Self-explanatory. I list my favourite ten films from every year since 1950, with no comment. Then I give a list of my top films from each decade once I’ve done each year, but this time share some comments. There’s also some stats in there, such as how many films I picked which were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, which were top ten grossing movies etc.

Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: A journalist called Colin Larkin made several of those popular ‘Top 1000 Albums Ever’ books. I grabbed one of them, I removed the ones I had already heard, and in this series I go through the ones that I haven’t heard, give my virgin thoughts, and whether I think it deserves to be called one of the best ever. I want to sync up my Nightman Scoring System © with these. Just one word of warning – I don’t plan or put any thought into these ‘reviews’. I literally listen and type at the same time. Not the best way to give thoughts I know, but that’s the format.

The Shrine: People die. Famous people die. But they live on, in our hearts and minds and in the work they left behind. Here I offer the chance to remember and offer thanks.

The Spac Hole: Each Monday I post a random lyric from a random song. Every so often I write something which doesn’t fit in any other category. Usually it’s weird. That stuff all goes here. There are more semi-regular pieces like those posts where I use Google translate to change the lyrics of (s)hit songs or dreadful imaginings like what I would do if I owned my own Cinema.

The Spac Reviews: Carlos Nightman is my alter ego. Derek Carpet is his alter ego. He is an idiot. He likes movies. These are his reviews. They are…. different.

TV Reviews: I sometimes review TV too. I talk about my current shows and my all time favourites.

Unpublished Screenplays: Derek Carpet sometimes likes to pretend he’s a writer too. Here are some of his original works, based on other movies and TV shows.

Videogame Reviews: I do these sometimes too. Usually retro. Usually with a humourous bent.

Walk Of Fame: Hollywood has a Walk Of Fame. I have one too. Mine’s better, except I don’t update it anymore. Not only do my inductees get a star, but they get a statue too! And, in each post one lucky soul gets a special building concerning their work or life dedicated to them!

My Blog – June 2019

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It’s almost Summer, yay! For me, that doesn’t mean better weather because we remain in a yearly/monthly/daily state of grey, but for most people you get to head to the beach or eat ice cream naked or whack on the AC and take another few years off the planet’s future. But sure, it’s all good fun. It’s the time to take a break, to finish off your exams and give the middle finger to another year of school, and plan for an ill-advised holiday romance or finally get around to painting that damn fence. In Northern Ireland, we’re almost into what is referred to as ‘The Marching Season’. That means that a bunch of idiots take it upon themselves to essentially shut down every city, town, and village so that they can don ridiculous outfits, get pissed, and march through the streets beating drums and playing music that nobody has ever wanted to hear at apocalyptic levels of volume. Why? Tradition. And if anyone dares take it away from us – families, kids, schools, politicians, cops, military, then by God we are gonna to fuck shit up for the next three months, set fire to every shop or car within five miles, before complaining about foreigners taking our jobs or something. Why? Tradition.

I say ‘we’, but naturally I don’t include myself in such activities. Today’s post isn’t a lesson about the dumb tribalism and bullshit patriotism which diseases this patch of earth we just happened to have been born on, no, but I did intend today’s post to be some sort of cultural brochure. If there’s one thing we’re good at here, aside from needless murder and carnage, it’s self-deprecating humour. And so, I found some things on the internet which range from ‘sort of funny to me’, to ‘meh’, but maybe they’ll be interesting to people unfamiliar with or interested in Northern Ireland. I’ve no idea who wrote the list originally as it has been shared thousands of times in the past ten years. Now, there was 60 of these things, so I’m only going to post the first 20 and add my thoughts in red below each, sort of as an explanation. Have a read, and if anything is weird or if you want to ask me anything, I’m always lurking in the comments. Enjoy!

You know your from Belfast when …….

1. You’re never cold but sometimes Baltic.

Yes, everyone uses this term – ‘it’s fuckin Baltic today’. Not me though.

2. The sight of 12-year-olds smoking is normal.

I smoked when I was 12 – isn’t this normal elsewhere?

3. Castle Court – the traditional and best – is well better than that Victoria Square place.

Castle Court is a tiny shopping mall in Belfast City Centre. It is filled with Chav scum, steeks, and millbags. Victoria Square is a more upmarket and newer tiny shopping mall in the City Centre. It used to have a place to buy DVDs, but doesn’t anymore, so there is no reason for me to use it, other than as a shortcut to get to somewhere else. 

4. You have owned a pair of Nike Air Max at some stage.

Can’t say I have.

5. You will fight anyone who claims Callum Best’s Da wasn’t the best footballer EVER.

I will fight anyone who claims he wasn’t an abusive drunk and played for the scum.

6. You’re passionate about an English or Scottish football team.

English yes, couldn’t care less about Scottish football (people in Northern Ireland traditionally only support Rangers (Protestant) or Celtic (Catholic). Northern Irish football is atrocious and I have no idea what the South is like. Scottish is like 2nd Division English. 

7. You know what real rain is like.

I assume ‘real rain’ is something Belfast people say, but I’ve never heard it.

8. You think if you can’t see the Harland and Wolff cranes from your bedroom window you’re a culchie.

A culchie is a farmer/someone who lives in the countryside/someone who doesn’t live in Belfast. Harland and Wolff cranes are two huge yellow cranes you can see from basically anywhere in Belfast. They were not used in the building of The Titanic. 

9. You remember when it was OK to smoke (anything) in the KFC in Corn Market.

Or any of the KFCs.

10. So it is

Nobody says ‘top of the morning’ or ‘begorah’ or any muck like that. Everyone says ‘so it is’. Not me though, I had an education.

11. You know what the word Ball root means.

We have many wonderful and colourful insults. This is one.

12. You use the word ‘sweet’ and ‘powerful’ as a substitute for almost any adjective.

Yes, you hear these most days. Powerful not so much, that always seemed like an auld boy or culchie thing to me.

13. You are a half decent pool player and know your way around a snooker table.

This is true. 

14. You know what the words ‘space-cadet’ and ‘rocket’ really mean.

More insults. Except ‘rocket’ is usually pronounced ‘racket’.

15. Your friends still call you by your childhood nickname.

Yes, depending on when I knew the friend, if I see them today they will use that specific nickname. And so will I.

16. You cringe when you hear someone from your city speak on national TV.

Definitely. Our accents can be horrific. I quite like mine though.

17. You been told wha’ at least once in your life.

Ha ha. Ha. 

18. You know at least one person called Mackers.

Yes. Yes I do.

19. Ballycastle is your most frequented holiday destination.

See, I never got this. Why would you go to Ballycastle when Portrush is close by? Then again, I rarely went to either as we had Kilkeel. Which is worse than both. I live near Ballycastle now. 

20. Your Granny had a framed picture of the Pope or the Queen in the living room but not both.

No, none of my grandparents had this. Must be a Belfast thing.

Now you know a little more about Belfast and its people. Feel free to comment!

*Note – I wrote this post in January, well in advance of publishing. I had to stick that pic on at the top in place of the usual general blogging pic. YNWA!

Nightman’s Random Five Favourite Things About USA (or how I forgot to say Happy 4th of July)

Yes, we’ve finally done it. We’ve reached that point in writing subjective lists that we’ve jumped the shark completely and are now creating lists of the most pointless ‘things’ fathomable. We’re just one step away from ‘Nightman’s Top Ten List Of Best Lists’ and when that happens, there’ll be nothing else for it but to tuck your unmentionables inside your sweaty flaps and flail wildly until matron comes to tuck you in.

The United States of America, eh? Not so UNITED now, are ya? LULZ! Here you are, on the cusp of one of your most important Holidays (and another which is completely worthless to the rest of the world), a day in which you celebrate independence, freedom, and um… guns? I don’t know. I’m not American and I don’t really care. Nevertheless, your country is a wonderful place filled with wonderful people, wonderful places, and wonderful things to do.

<Incomprehensible noises>

So here it is, a list of things that I love about your home – a view from an outsider who has only been over to say ‘howdy’ a few times. Enjoy your day, but seriously, stop fucking up so much – you’re making the rest of us look bad.

Theme Parks

The child in me never grew up – he’s merely cowering behind my copious body hair and gargantuan testicles. One thing I loved when I was young was theme parks, water parks, fairgrounds. The sounds, the smells, the rides, the unreality, not-being-in-school of it all. Where I live, meaning my country as a whole, we don’t have our own theme park. Seriously. I mean, there are places we can go to try mini-rides and every summer temporary ones are set up but they are terrible. We have to fly to England to get anything anyway decent, but even Her Majesty’s finest are a pale imitation of the almighty Disneys, Universals, and Six Flags of your fair land. If I was rich and free I would take a year and just go to every single park in the US, trying every ride, and loving every second of it. Those Youtube guys who travel around the world or around the US making vids of coasters and slides – that’s my ideal job. It makes me cry that I can’t just get a ticket and walk into one of these places whenever I want. So many tears.

Food

There’s an obesity problem in the USA, everyone knows that, and yet there are numerous reports of hundreds of thousands of people starving or requiring food stamps. It’s another example of the weird dichotomies which exist there. Here’s the thing, whenever I’ve been to the States I’ve always been amazed at how cheap the food is – you can buy mountains of the stuff for hardly anything. Where I live portions are much smaller and costs are much higher. Another thing you guys pioneered is the ‘all you can eat’ mantra – meal deals, restaurants etc all featuring these offers. It’s only in recent years that I’ve seen a few select places offering similar deals where I’m from, and generally only in the major cities and towns (ie – Belfast). The same goes for drinks – free refills on whatever you want, cheap booze, and never scrimping on shot sizes. Here you can get plenty of booze cheap, but in supermarkets or Off-Licences – pubs and bars are generally quite steep, and if you ask for a shot they’ll measure out the exact measure of drops without ever given a sniff more. I’ve always been pretty thin – good genes and an obsessive fitness regime when I was younger, but I’ve no doubt that if I lived in the US I’d be double or triple my current size.

Holidays

This has always been one of my major jealousies of  the yanks. While part of the pomp and pageantry is sickening, and the patriotism which sometimes comes along with it is completely bewildering to me, you guys really know how to celebrate. All the big ones – Christmas, Halloween, New Years, get such reverential treatment that it makes how we celebrate look like that one guy who turns up at a gig and looks like he wants to be anywhere else. Christmas and Halloween are two of my favourite times of the years – Easter and New Years I couldn’t care less about. Thanks to our weather, Christmas is rarely a snowy affair but it’s more about the way we celebrate. It starts too early, usually Christmas stuff is selling in the shops before Halloween – I’d rather it only began on 1st December and that we gradually increased the festivities as the month progressed. Again it’s only recently that we’ve started to adopt Christmas parades and Christmas pop-up shops. Christmas does have enough magic of its own though that it’s still good – just, watching all those 80s and 90s Hollywood movies set around Christmas – it seems so much bigger and more fun than here.

Halloween is where I get most jealous. Halloween used to be a bigger deal when I was younger – anyone could get their hands on fireworks and everyone had parties. Now you need a license to get fireworks, with enough hoops to go through you’d think we were trying to buy an army. I can still make my own of course – years of having my own Devil’s Night debauchery taught me many a technique – but your access to mini nukes is amazing. I always here about the movie and TV horror marathons you guys get, but here the coverage of the event on TV is simply non-existent. Maybe once every two or three years you’ll get a new documentary – a film maker recounting his love of all things Halloween or horror, or maybe an updated list of TV’s scariest moments or some such balls, but where’s my Elvira? Where’s my list of nightly horror movies to sit up and watch similar what we have for Christmas? This isn’t simply a matter of regular TV not feeling the need to show horror movies anymore because of Netflix etc – every year at Christmas we have literally hundreds of Christmas movies and traditional movies being shown, yet at Halloween they don’t even put on Halloween. You guys go all out with the Halloween decorations too, and I get the impression that everyone gets into the spirit – over here it’s usually one or two houses and before long you have the idiots labeling you as a devil worshiper, because clearly it’s still the 1600s. Tying in with Theme Parks, you also have those Haunted House experiences and walkthroughs – I’d love to do something like that and again if I was rich and free I’d make one myself. Then again, do we really need that when walking through Belfast on a Friday night you’ll meet any number of murderers, lunatics, and ghouls?

Oh, and while I’m at it – you guys celebrate St Patrick’s Day more than we do – for us it’s just an excuse to get drunk earlier in the day than usual and… that’s about it really. I have plenty of stories I could share about the antics I’ve got up to on the day, but I’ll save those for another time. You guys do it bigger and better. The only thing I will say is – IT’S PADDY’S – NEVER PATTY’S!

Nerd Expos

I’m an old school nerd – you know, before it was sexy and all that. I was the one trying to find friends who liked Hero Quest (our version of D&D) to set up a game (I never did find any). I was the one who would collect and paint the miniatures. I was never a big comic guy, more to do with the fact that growing up in a small town in a small country we had no such things as comic book shops to allow me to actually get into them. That’s one of many reasons why today’s Marvel and other assorted Comic movies leave me cold – the main reason being that they’re simply not very good. I was always more of a regular book, TV, and movie nerd – collecting toys and accessories, rhyming off dialogue, and knowing the names of every episode, guest character, etc etc etc, all before the days of IMDB, Google etc – back when you had to set up the VHS to record something, and then pause the credits to get more info. It seems like everyday you guys have a new comic or movie conference – where all the biggest stars show up and you can meet them for several (hundred) bucks. The closest I got to this was Bond fan or Corgi car fans shows when I was young – and even then that was just a bunch of other fans and collectors hiring a church hall or function room for half a day.

Again, recent years have seen us catching up and having our own expos – games, movies, TV etc. Usually it seems to be an excuse for socially awkward people (or at least more than I am) or sexual deviants to cosplay or perv on the cosplayers. To be honest, I haven’t been arsed going – there’s too much focus on fandoms I simply don’t care about – Marvel, DC, Star Trek, Dr.Who. I am a moaning bastard though – I complain that we don’t have them, then yap when we do. Ah well, if I was supposed to be happy I’d, you know, be happy.

One Land

Have you ever been to Wisconsin? No, neither have I. How about Arkansas (which should be pronounced Ar-Kansas not Arkinsaw, or else Kansas should be pronounced Kansaw)? No? Well, the point is that you can get there, very easily, right now if you wanted to. You just need to hop into your car, and away you go. You have virtually an entire world on your doorstep and every conceivable way to get there. There are a lot of terrifying studies out there showing how your average American doesn’t own a passport, can’t find England or Australia or Russia or wherever on a map, but is it the same for within your land? Can you pinpoint the majority of States? How often do you travel out of State, and to how many States have you been? Man, if I was rich and free I would be on the road visiting every State and exploring as many cities and towns as I could, meeting all the weird and wonderful people, hearing their stories, learning the history, eating the food, and checking out the local sights. That’s maybe the point – because you have so much, on your doorstep why would you bother going anywhere? Just keep becoming insular to the point that it’s USA and her allies, then USA against the world, then my State against the others, then my city or zipcode against the rest, my street, my house, MY ME.

EV-REE-THING!

You see, I don’t know much about America but I know a little something about insular and about hatred. I grew up on and still live on a small island. You know it as Ireland, you know – that place your grandparents didn’t come from. You’d only be half right, because I’m actually from Northern Ireland, you know – that place where everyone shoots and bombs each other. For generations, for centuries, we have been a divided land – divided for reasons I don’t give one moldy shit about and kept that way by people who don’t deserve to be in the same presence as my moldy shit. We are a backwards land, ruled by archaic religious and political minority laws which…. wait a second, does this sound familiar? It should, America – it really should. You don’t want to end up like us – we’re only just clawing our way out of the depths of the void we once found ourselves in and there are those among us who would love nothing more than to drag us back in.

You have so much to offer the world, and each other. You have so much to see. I… I didn’t intend this to go all woolly. What I really wanted to praise was the fact that you live on this massive expanse of land with some of the greatest cities and sights in the known Universe – man-made or otherwise. Don’t let them go to waste. What I really wanted to express was that, while the scalp of this little island I call home as its fair share of sights – it’s nothing compared to what you have. We have all those green fields you see on TV when you’re thinking of visiting us, but they’re only green for 3 months out of the year – the rest they’re either brown, in the process of becoming brown, or so shrouded by rain or cloud that you can’t see how brown they’ve become. I can’t just hop in a car and see New York. I can’t just take a train and be in DC. I yearn for the time when some intrepid billionaire finally builds a bridge from Northern Ireland to Scotland, connecting us with the rest of the world – I could drive to Scotland, down through England, into the Channel Tunnel and suddenly have France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Greece, Scandinavia, Russia, China on my (very long and wide) doorstep. You guys don’t have to do dream, because you have it all already.

Let us know what you love about the USA, about your own Country, and what (if anything) you’ll be doing to celebrate on the 4th of July.