Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Homoeroticism for Beginners

Chances are if you're a regular reader of this blog, you've already seen this video, but oddly enough; I've yet to feature it here.

This is a video I made two years ago(!) and I made it because I had a few hours to spare, and a new video-editing program to try out. After about two hours (which is very little time for what it normally takes), I had something different from my usual output that I was quite fond of. I slapped it online before giving it any polish (kudos to whoever points out the picture I used twice), or thought up a suitable title before the montage starts. Regardless, it's one of my favourites.

Please to enjoy:

It was the first video I uploaded on YouTube, and is the third most popular (beaten by this crappy video taken at a football game, and the video I made at the Taking Back Sunday concert - both of which piggyback on the name of what I documented). I attribute its popularity (1,160 since 24/07/06 at the time of writing) to the fact that it has the word 'gay' in the title - the thumbnail (generated automatically by whatever frame lays in the middle of the video) happened to land on a decidedly un-straight picture of me with a flower in my hair, and the song the video is set to is quite excellent!

My favourite part about this video once it hit the internet? The comments!

Of course - I clicked into this guy's profile to find more information:
A person with a poor grasp English and an interest in meeting people featured in a video riddled with homoerotic poses who is from the Philippines and uses a parrot as his avatar has seen one of my videos? That's why I love the internet!

Let me know what you think in the comments. Compliments homosexual in nature welcomed (as are admonishments).

Consumer Whorery

I'm going to level with you here - it's the 30th of April, and I've only posted 3 blog entries this month. Long ones - but only three in number. Some time ago, I committed myself to posting 5 a month, so it'd break my heart to see this commitment breaking down.

It's not that I don't have anything interesting to write about, it's that I don't have any time to do it! But here's a quick public service announcement: I've finally found a way to keep track of the numerous material goods that I covet on a daily basis!

That's right - I've started an Amazon wishlist! I enjoy looking at the wishlists of others, and gleaning some understanding of their interests, and so I hope you too can glean some insight into my narrow spectrum of leisure pursuits!

Incidentally, my birthday is coming up in 18 days...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

101 Things removed from the Human Body - Efficient Health Service Edition

Apologies are in order, dear reader, for leaving your breath bated for these past twenty three days, and I assure you that I will be revising my cliff-hanger policy over the coming weeks! Anyway, allow me to plunge back into the epic narrative that was started three weeks ago...

Possibly sensing that her clumsiest son was in trouble, my mother rang. Before I had a chance to answer the obligatory inquiry as to my well being, she was attempting to lure me home with the promise of delicious pabulum.

“Umm – I don’t think I’ll be back on time. I managed to get a piece of cotton wool stuck in my head a few hours ago.”

“Cotton wool?”, she echoed back at me.

“Yeah – I was cleaning my ears and –“

“How many times have I told you not to put anything smaller than your elbow in there?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been told that by anyone. Ever. In all my 21 years.”

“I’m sure you just weren’t listening. What are you going to do?”

“Well, I have a note to go to the hospital, but the nurse at the medical centre said I could try and flush it out first with something called ‘Cerumol’, from the chemist, or the shower-head.”

I began to fear that I should be a little more economical with my syllables, in case the jaw motions would coax the fluff deeper into my skull, so I ended the conversation whilst my mother was warning me how awful the queues would be at the hospital. One quick trip to the pharmacy later, and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my Cerumol drops.

My rationale for using the kitchen for my base of operations was quite extensive. For starters, there was an ample supply of kitchen paper, should I need it, and secondly, if I somehow flood my brain-chamber, one of my housemates will hopefully find my carcass on time and give it a tap on the head. It wasn’t until after the process that I became aware that Cerumol drops are a DIY ear-enema kit, and probably not the kind of thing I should be doing at our breakfast table.

The instructions said to use five drops, “with the head inclined”. Can I trust that? Five drops? Is that for an average sized man? I’m certainly not an average sized man... But maybe my ears are average. I think I remember being told my ears were quite small for my head. But didn’t the girl who told me that have a boyfriend with giant ears? I don’t think I can take her opinion too seriously... Eventually, I decided to load up as much into the dropper as I could, and squeeze it all in.

I sat there in the kitchen for a few moments, head turned in a similar vein to that of a confused mongrel, focusing only on the pool of liquid gently swirling around in my ear, like some kind of badly blocked toilet, passing the time by thinking of the analogies I could overload my inevitable blog entry with. Eventually, I decided to try spilling the contents out and see if the fluff came with it. I turned so my left ear was facing the ground, and used a kitchen towel to catch anything that came out. At the least, I was expecting a little bit of liquid, but nothing seemed to come out, and the only difference I felt was a greasy feeling from the oily drops. It occurred to me that all I had obtained in the last five minutes was to lube up my ear.

I tried the Cerumol drops a few more times, but didn’t seem to benefit much from the endeavour. The box’s warning that the process “may cause a harmless tingling sensation” proved quite misleading, as I was hit with a rather vicious earache. Desperate to alleviate the discomfort, and as a last-ditch effort to spare myself an ignominious hospital visit, I used the shower head to try and flush out the fugitive fluff. After douching myself for some moments and failing to sense anything falling victim to gravity other than tepid water, I resigned myself to spending the rest of my evening in the hospital.

I’m sure that my esteemed readers are aware of my whinesome proclivities; if something is an encumbrance, I’ll report it as such. Brace yourself for the head-exploding moment here; going to the hospital was actually a little fun.

I approached the Regional Hospital’s Accident & Emergency desk in a rather sheepish fashion, knowing that my stupidity would take limited resources away from somebody with a hole in their head, or a scrotum pop-riveted to a piece of aluminium. Despite the UL nurse’s predictions that I’d have difficulty redeeming the note (something about them not being a ‘real’ medical centre), and warning that I might have to pay the A&E fee, the woman at the desk didn’t even mention that I had been referred to the hospital in the city [which closed at 5pm that evening – which is a bizarre issue to consider for another day]. After a quick glance around the crowded waiting area full of rather settled-looking people, I decided that blurting out “it’ll only take a minute to get it sorted” was a worthwhile addendum on our interaction.

I had just started up a game on my Nintendo DS when my name was called. I made sure that there wasn’t another Seán O’Sullivan stirring into action, and approached the young female nurse who had beckoned me. She took me into a room with some supplies and sat me down in the corner. I told her what was wrong.

“Don’t you know not to put anything smaller than your elbow in there?”

“It’s such an arbitrary measurement! If I got it in metric, maybe I’d be able to abide by it!”

She seemed to enjoy the stupidity of my glib remark, and began looking into my head with the othoscope as I held my tongue from asking her how many other ears it had been in that day.

She stopped, frowned, and began again.

“There’s nothing in there” she said, visibly confused.

I told her that I might have got it out earlier when I went playing with the eardrops, but she wanted a second opinion. She came back a minute later with two others in blue scrubs. The amount of patients to medical personnel in the room was 3:1. I felt like quite the waste of taxes, so I began to make my discomfort felt in the only way I know how:

“What the hell is this? Everybody just comes in to laugh at the guy who pokes things into his head?”

The male nurse that had just walked in chuckled and motioned towards the other new woman,

“I’m here to laugh – she’s just getting supplies.”

I became quite enamoured with this guy over the next five minutes, despite the fact that he smelt like cigarettes (his second disqualification from being a potential girlfriend), mostly because he mocked me and reported back on what he saw within my ear, unlike the other two visitors to my head-cavity that day.

“You’ve a lot of scarring in here.”


“Either you scratch the hell out of your ears, or you’ve had surgery.”

Up to that point, I had completely forgotten about the insertion of gromits into my ears years ago, so I told him that they were probably the reason. Again, he aided my shoddy memory:

“If it’s just gromits, you must’ve had ‘em put in a second time”

Holy balls! He was right! I wanted him to examine my entire body and see what other secrets from my forgotten childhood he could unearth. He poked around in my ear again and again, making sure that my ear-canal was free of anything that didn’t belong, admitting that it was making him “paranoid”. Eventually he decided he was going to take me outside to the general “people-fixing area” [for the life of me, I cannot think of what the area beyond the waiting room with beds & curtains, (which isn’t a ward) is called], and syringe my ear. The nurse who was previously dealing with me chimed in, “If that doesn’t work, you can always just blow into the other ear, and that should fix it!”

As I lay on the bed, surrounded by people looking near death who didn’t seem to be getting the first class service I was, I watched my wise-cracking hero fill up a container with water, constantly adjusting both the hot and cold taps, and testing the temperature every few seconds with his finger.

“Very scientific process you’ve got there”, I teased.

“Any more of that and I’ll make you wear the dunce cap!”

He pulled the curtain around me.

“Uh oh. Is this going to get bloody?”

“Generally you syringe an ear when there’s a big build up of wax. People come in thinking they’re deaf because they have so much, and we flush it out. It’s pretty gross."

With that, he began dousing my ear. The water was colder than I expected, and the entire process was watched by another person in scrubs who seemed thoroughly fascinated by the whole thing and asked questions about what to aim the stream of water at, and what temperature the water needed to be.

The little cardboard bucket he made me hold was conspicuously empty when he finished the process, which seemed to surprise him somewhat:

“Huh. Guess there was no wax there at all.”

I was pretty pleased with myself for having such a squeaky clean ear, seemingly forgetting about the 45 minutes I had just spent pouring various liquids into my skull. He told me I was good to go, and I almost wanted to shake his hand.

My hospital experience lasted no more than 30 minutes, and it was surprisingly enjoyable. Every person I encountered was in good humour and seemed interested in not only what they were doing, but also whom they were doing it to, and I left quite impressed with the efficiency I had witnessed.

I regret that it took over a month for me to write this down, as I know that I’ve forgotten about some of the Scrubs-worthy banter I had with the staff of the Regional, and I’m sure that the bits I do recall aren’t even the highlights. The moral of the story is; if you have a moderately entertaining story that no is no longer entertaining halfway through, you shouldn’t bother putting the first half on your blog, because then people will expect the second half to be as interesting. But they’ll probably read 1800 words of it anyway, because they have nothing better to do.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Crashing David Quinn's Theology Tea Party

Before I begin, I’d like to assure you that 101 Things Removed from the Human Body - Sully Edition will be completed, but I’ve decided to document a more recent experience before it fades from memory. It's long, and a departure from my usual blog fodder, so you are under no obligation to read it, but if you want your say - I implore you to comment.

As I’ve mentioned before on this very blog, my college thesis is based on the interplay between religion and ‘new atheism’, which involved a great deal of research into the arguments and rhetoric of each group. I handed in my thesis almost a fortnight ago, but yesterday morning I got an e-mail from my thesis supervisor, informing me that there was an event taking place in Limerick called ‘Café Theology’, chaired by Irish Independent journalist David Quinn. According to the press release, the topic would be:
Is religion on its way out? Is it just for non-thinkers? Should it be confined to private life only? Does the dogmatism of a new atheism try to convince society that religion is only for the weak, the stupid, the deluded or the evil? Is Dawkins right?

The topic certainly piqued my interest, so I read on, and found this gem at the bottom of the announcment:
Listen here to Quinn debating with Dawkins.

Surprisingly while Dawkins starts articulately, he seems to end up in a stutter trying to answer Quinn [sic] objections & arguments.

I’ve yet to witness Richard Dawkins being stumped by a theistic discussion, so I listened to the file, and I was quite appalled by the misrepresentation that he ends up “in a stutter” over the childish arguments that Quinn put forward.

Given that the announcement indicated that the talk was very much about Dawkins’ brand of atheistic purveyance, yet he would not be present, I decided I couldn’t miss such an event! If nothing else, it would be hilarious to hear how Dawkins words could be manipulated to make him seem like a lunatic.

I arrived on time with my friend Jason, and we seemed to be the first ones there. We were approached by a friendly sort who said “how’r’ya lads?’” as he shook Jason’s hand. He then stared at Jason as he held his hand, post shake. I began to grow uncomfortable. What did he want from us? Jason didn’t seem to know either. A second crawled by. Eventually Jason quietly stated his name and the suited geezer turned towards me, shook my hand, and waited for me to utter my name. He didn’t introduce himself, curiously enough, but he warmly told us to go and get a cup of coffee (which wasn’t free, I hasten to add).

I was a little confused by this very personal greeting, as any serious intellectual academic seminars I’ve attended didn’t begin with physical contact and name-giving. Of course at this stage, I realised that this was an ostensibly Catholic undertaking to reinforce existing beliefs, rather than an engaging exercise for the gray matter.

Quinn introduced his seminar as “Challenging the New Atheism”, and proudly mentioned that he had debated with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, sarcastically commenting that he received “the usual fairness” when his panel discussion with Hitchens consisted of fewer theists than agnostics or atheists.

Quinn proffered that the arguments of ‘new atheism’ are nothing new, as they have been around as long as religion itself. He maintains that atheism has resurfaced and gained ground because of George Bush and 9/11. Also interesting is his notion of ‘historical contingency’, which asserts that in certain periods, some philosophies will be more popular than others, ie: in a time of religious war, there will be plenty of anti-religious sentiment around. All of this seems quite reasonable, but he eventually introduces the arguments against religion from the perspective of atheists, which he considers as (1). Science and Religion are in conflict (2) Religion does more harm than good, and (3) Religion is unreasonable.

The rest of his talk consisted of misrepresenting secularism, and putting words in Dawkins' mouth to make his beliefs seem absurd. I’ll give you the notes as they appear in my notepad: “Scientific Materialism is a philosophy”, “Dawkins is speaking as a philosopher, not a scientist when he speaks about God, therefore his qualifications are of no merit – he is therefore a lay man”, “Dawkins does not believe in free will, but he believes in moral accountability”, “Dawkins considers stem cell research ethical, but he considers research on his body unethical – where does he draw the line?” – “he is too blinded by hostility for religion to realise that the Animal Rights movement are the major obstruction to science”.

Quinn believes that history has “demonised” religious undertakings, and “sanitized” secular ones, highlighting that the “Committee for Public Safety”, which killed thousands more than the Inquisition, is not regarded as one of the greatest crimes against humanity, whereas the Inquisition was. He believes that this is because the former was a secular organisation. He says that a “fanatical” adherence to “reason” is “unreasonable”, and every bit as dangerous as religious fundamentalism. He then bemoaned the moral relativism of secularists, who cannot rely on a higher power for guidance, and therefore, “anything seems reasonable”, resulting in the “blood soaked history of secularism”.

He says that atheism “as a belief” (I believe he was unaware of the irony of the statement) is “weak”, because it doesn’t explain the “origin of matter”, and Dawkins admits to having no answer. He then claims that the big bang theory was initially kept schtum by scientists who didn’t want to cede that there was a “moment of creation”.

He closed by stating that militant atheism is a major problem, as is any form of fanaticism, and we must strive for a more realistic appraisal of history. I may well have glossed over his talk here in too general a manner, but I assure you that every second sentence of his mouth was so utterly dishonest that I found it difficult to suppress the audible scoffs that yearned to be freed.

Now that it was question time, I was only too happy to enter the fray, but I drew a major blank – there was so much wrong with what he said! Where should I begin? As I flicked through my notes, somebody asked about the worship of Dawkins by atheists. Quinn laughed at the reaction to his “debate” with Dawkins when discussed on, as Richard had been “placed on a pedestal”. According to Quinn, atheists think that “Dawkins is infallible, and anybody who disagrees is irrational – that is a very unreasonable way to conduct yourself”.

Great! Now I can tear into him. I told him that he grossly misrepresented atheists – that I am an atheist, and I do not consider Richard Dawkins to be “infallible”. I also pointed out that he spent considerable amount of time doing what Dawkins was criticised for by theists– establishing a “straw man” (a ridiculous summation that misrepresents a person’s beliefs to facilitate making their argument easier to rebut). I told him that atheism is not an active belief in something, but rather a lack of something, and his assertion that atheists want to wipe all religious people off the earth in a violent fashion is as ridiculous as a person claiming that my teetotalling disposition would result in me rounding up and killing every publican and brewer of alcohol once I get into a position of power. The audience laughed at my analogy (laughed with me, I believe) as I elaborated that atheism has no central authority that determines how to behave, as it is not a creed or philosophy, but an absence of belief.

His sneering style of delivery evaporated once it became clear that he wasn’t entirely among friends, and he maintained eye contact with me for a nanosecond, before morosely turning to the other side of the room and saying “I was talking about militant atheism”, and then claiming “I never said that everyone on considered Richard Dawkins infallible”.

A few more questions were asked and I thought I’d enter the fray again. I referred to his point that new atheism is recycling the atheism that has been around for centuries, but asked him to consider that whereas once it was just an existential, materialist philosophy that rivalled other theories, the development and growth of science in the 19th century now means that atheism is based on knowledge, and not theories, as a great deal of the Bible has been disproved. As I was saying this, the woman directly opposite me (I was to the left of Quinn – she was to the right) began to shake her head vigorously and say “no no no no no”, but I continued with my point, finishing with “now that we know more about the nature of the world, science has proven itself more useful than religiosity.”

Quinn mumbled something before deferring the question to the woman he knew by name whose head was spasming during my point. Her opening salvo was “you obviously know nothing about philosophy”, and she proclaimed that the Bible hasn’t been “debunked by science – it was never meant to be taken literally, it is purely allegorical. Biblical literacy is a modern phenomenon.” She then listed off a number of philosophers who backed up her belief – she was certainly better read more than I, but that had no bearing on the conversation. I gestured that I had something to say as she continued to berate my ignorance. I asked politely “to address the argument”, but she didn’t relent. Eventually the chap controlling the microphone convinced her to stop, so I could offer a rebuttal.

“You’re happy to admit that the Bible is allegorical. If you’re going to derive morality from a work of fiction, why not any book? Why not, say, Aesop’s Fables?” She cut across me again, berating my ignorance, before going off on an unrelated tangent about the etymology of the word ‘atom’ (the philosopher Democritus, apparently), before I interjected and asked her how she can justify belief in Jesus Christ, a supernatural messiah who will bring about the end of the world, based on a book that she admits to being allegorical.

She then ranted about how parts of the New Testament are considered historical (I’ve read some interesting things that seriously undermine the validity of her assertion, but I thought I’d let her be the academic snob, whereas I’d be the practical guy who can call a turd a turd), but utterly failed to address my point. I chided her for “moving the goalposts” at one stage, but she didn’t see that as relevant.

The questions that followed were from people asking for elaborations on parts of Quinn’s speech, which consisted of more empty rhetoric, but he was much more judicious of his treatment of atheists. When the mic came my way again, I asked him to address my assertion that religion sabotages intellectual appetites in young people. I told him that as a person curious about the world, I used to find my queries shot down with “God put it there”, or “God did it”, which is counter-intuitive to learning about the nature of things. I asked him what he thought of my viewpoint that religion is a kind of road-block for free-enquiry in that regard, which ultimately answers nothing. I restated my utterance to focus it in a bit, but when Quinn hesitated to address the point, I felt compelled to fill the silence with a rather unsophisticated linguistic capstone that caused much mirth on the busride home:
Ultimately, the response – “God put it there”, is the end of the conversation for the religious mind, whereas it is only beginning for the intellectually curious. Do you have an objection to this ideological road block? This willingness to say “God put it there?” [He hesitated] You're an idiot.”

The addendum of “you're an idiot” was so ambiguous at the time, that even now in retrospect I can’t say if it came across as me elaborating on my ‘quote’ from the theist, or the level of respect I had for Quinn’s intellectual integrity manifesting itself in a hilarious Freudian fashion.

Quinn’s answer, which was disappointing in its flimsiness, consisted of him saying that religion has made him “more curious”, but he failed to elaborate on this point in a coherent fashion. I hoped that the audience considered his meandering doublespeak as the failure that I did, but they were quite sympathetic towards him up to that point.

There was a great deal that I wanted to say but didn’t get the chance to, as I had already claimed far more microphone time than anyone else, and the organisers were looking at their watches with increasing frequency. Regardless, I asked Quinn for a simple “one syllable” answer to the question “Do you claim to derive your morality from the Bible”, but when he took forever to say “yes”, the microphone was plucked from my hands before I could probe whether he had ever killed one of his children for talking back to him (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Mark 7:9-13, and Matthew 15:4-7), or how he felt about slavery – which the Bible does not have any problems with (so long as you don’t beat your slave to death, knock out his teeth, or pluck out his eyeballs).

After two stuffy hours, the talk finally ended. As I stood up to go to the bathroom, I was under the impression that I was wearing a sizable bullseye on my head. I joked to Jason that I’d get “jumped in the jacks”. No sooner had the words been uttered that a woman had approached me. “Thanks for your comments” she said. “Made this worthwhile”. I was quite taken aback, considering that I was inundated with dirty looks during my time with the microphone, and had come to terms with the fact that I was behind enemy lines. As I queued for the bathroom, a man approached me, who was quite flustered, and confused me with the few fragments of sentences that he spat out. He eventually thanked me for my input, and apologised for not matching my “eloquence”, at which point I had a flashback of “You're an idiot” and chuckled that I somehow came across well in spite of that blunder.

One toilet-break later and I was back in the room with Quinn, the organisers, and the stragglers – I had to walk past Quinn to exit, but I planned on stopping to chat to him for a few moments and ask about his column and whatnot. As I approached him I heard some guy asking him about “this guy - Daukens”, who “just makes it up as he goes along?” Quinn nodded in approval of this interpretation. I decided not to bother talking to him and made my way for the door.

A priest was standing at the stairs that led out of the building. We both walked past him as he called out “Good luck lads”. I looked over my shoulder to see him giving us a half-hearted thumbs up.

He cried out after us:

“God Bless”.

My laughter reverberated through the building and out into the street.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

101 Things removed from the Human Body – Sully Edition

Dear reader, for eons now, you have regarded me as a paragon of intellectuality, a fountain of inspiration in a world overrun with stupidity, an oasis of smart in the desert of dumb known as life. Allow me to subvert this somewhat.

My most recent misadventure followed a long and surprisingly pleasant shower in my somewhat austere college accommodation. My post-shower tradition dictated that I clean my ears with the generic-brand cotton buds that I bought in Aldi. I’ve never been one to pay too much heed to the ‘keep out of ear canal’ warning that these goods carry, figuring that if I’m careful enough, my cotton bud will remain intact. I’ve done it for years, and never had any problems whatsoever. Until that fateful day, of course.

The surge of panic that went through my head when I saw a bare blue stick in my hand is hard to explain. Imagine getting your hand stuck in a jar, or a fat woman jumping on top of you while you’re eleven years old and swimming in a crappy pool at a cheap resort in Gran Canaria and you’ll know what I mean. Of course, my first reaction was to blindly plunge my fingers into my ear to try and fish it out, which I realised was utterly futile once I realised how small a hole I was poking at. I tried taking pictures of my ear using my webcam, but I couldn’t see anything, so that was also a waste of precious time.

Knowing that time was of the essence I charged off towards the medical centre on campus, foregoing any attempts to tidy up the messy hair that sat on my head and face, hesitating only to decide that I should leave the iPod behind for this walk. I pounded my way through the building, hurling open doors with remarkable aplomb and bounding up the stairs three at a time to the medical office. As I approached the hatch to inform them of my malady, I tried to steady my heavy breathing. I loomed in front of the hatch, watching two old biddies chatting quietly and waited. This might be an emergency I thought to myself, so I made with the polite cough. One of the biddies approached.


“Um... Hi. I –uhh, got the cotton off a cotton bud stuck in my ear, and I can’t get it out”


“The cotton... Off a cotton bud. I was cleaning my ears just now and the cotton didn’t come out when I removed the stick. I was hoping to have it looked at.”

“You know not to put anything smaller than your elbow in there, right?”

“Yeah – I know... Could I maybe get someone here to try and remove it?”

She told me to come back at 3:15. 3:15! That was over three hours away! Was this not some kind of emergency? By now I was late for my lecture, and since I had yet to collapse, decided to wander in.

Concentrating on the lecture was difficult. Could I feel it rattling around inside my head? I felt a pressure on my jawbone – had the fluff somehow wandered down and got stuck in my skull? As the lecturer began to warble on about globalisation and linguistic phenomena, I began to daydream. I had daydreams in which I blew my nose, and a little bit of fluff landed in my tissue. Or daydreamed about a painful urination culminating in the explosive ejection of a wet piece of cotton from my penis like a bullet from a rifle. Or sneezing and watching a piece of lint playfully float out of my ear. By the time I got to the tickly sensation during a bowel movement daydream, the lecture had ended.

I met my friends outside the room and told them what happened.

“You know not to put anything smaller than your elbow in there, right?”

“Of course I know!”

One of the (rightly) unsympathetic bastards asked me why I didn’t just yank it out with a tweezers, at which stage I invited him to have a look for the offending piece of fluff. After gazing into the dark hole in my head for a second, he agreed that some specialised hardware would be necessary.

I went back to the medical centre at 3:15 and had barely settled in the waiting room before my name was called. The middle aged woman asked what the problem was:

“The problem is – I’m an idiot. I managed to get a piece of a cotton bud stuck in my ear”

“You know not to put anything smaller than your elbow in there, right?”

“Yes, I know – and I’ve heard that phrase about twenty times already!”

The fluff in my brain must have been causing me to slur my words or something, because she asked a question I never thought I’d ever have to field:

“You’re not from Cork, are you?”

“Why? Is this the kind of behaviour you’d expect from a Corkman? Do they generally come in here after sticking things into their heads that don’t belong?”

The banter continued as she used the othoscope (the ear-proby thing with a light) to investigate the vast recesses of my brain.

“I can see it now. You have a foreign body in your ear.”

The stout nurse lavished sympathy upon me as I sat there making stupid self-deprecating remarks. She told me that there was a tool specifically used for such purposes, but lamented the UL medical centre’s lack of of such equipment. On that note, she asked me to “hang on a tick” and wandered off, returning with an implement in her hand.

“Oh great! You found it then?”

“No - I brought this in to show you the basic structure of the tool. Y’see – it’s like this, but it has an extra grip thing here that you can use to hook the foreign body and pull it out safely.”

What the hell? Did she think that the power of our combined imagination would make the tool appear? I decided it would be best for all concerned to keep things moving forward:

“Fascinating. Um. Maybe we could try something to get this thing out of my head?”

She told me she’d try and get the fluff with a forceps, then left the room for a moment to beckon another nurse to her side, so that one could hold the light while the other used the tool. Like a father and son tinkering with a car engine. She returned a moment later, out of breath from the exertion of wandering into the next room.

“She’ll be here in a minute – she’s busy in the other room.”

To alleviate any awkwardness that would come from making conversation with me, she continued looking into my ear, all the while muttering things like “that’s well in there” and “we’ll be doing well to get that out.” She told me that if I left it in, my ear would dry out and my head would explode (okay – I admit, I don’t recall the specifics of the conversation), and I needed to get this sucker out within 24 hours or something bad would happen.

As we waited for the other nurse, I decided to use the opportunity to brainstorm some alternate ‘exit strategies’. I suggested flushing it out by using a syringe full of water;

“Oh no – we can’t do that! I might shatter your eardrum”

“Okay. How about we get another cotton bud, put some glue on it, shove that into my ear canal, and see if it picks up the other one?”
“You’re just being a smart-arse now”, she helpfully pointed out.

The other nurse waddled in through the door at this very utterance, asking

“Does this smart-arse know not to put anything larger than-”

“Yes, yes – the elbow I know! I’ve heard it enough today that I’ll never forget, don’t worry!”

Now that the nursing dream-team had assembled, we could begin with the forcepsing. I felt the cold tool dredging along the inside of my ear, and the failed attempts at grabbing the fluff felt like hairs being plucked from deep within my skull. Eventually, they gave up. The nurse looked up at me, and gravely uttered:

“You’ll have to go to the hospital, I’m afraid.”

The blood curdling scream I emitted echoed out into the halls as the narrator chimed in: