Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: A flight of fantasy is fangtastic for tourists

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

Evil is to be invited to Northern Ireland. As usual, I will now begin to tone down that bombshell opening sentence by putting things in perspective, having put them out of perspective in the first place.

I speak – as you'll have guessed, surely? – about the plan to bring fans of Dracula to the joint, even unto providing them with maps. A tourist trail has been created, featuring locations used in the new Dracula Untold movie, which combines mythology with the true history of Prince Vlad.

Let me tell you something about Prince Vlad: he was an impaler. I don't want to sound controversial but decent, upstanding ratepayers do not impale their fellow citizens. Even after a couple of drinks.

And speaking of drinks, while I'm up here in the pulpit, lo, watch my lips as I deliver myself of this homily: sucking people's blood is wrong.

Somebody had to say it. Here's where it's at: there is a low-level, almost innocent fascination for evil among us, and, while I'm not bothered by it, let alone shouting "Kill the witch!" and leading a mob bearing burning brands, I am curious.

Many people believe all this started with Buffy Yonder Vampire Slayer. But the trek towards evil has earlier antecedents. I'm not talking about the Bible. I'm talking about the more popular Star Wars movies.

The films were bilge but the philosophical literature surrounding them is interesting, and I have read deeply of it. I can report from the front that books about the evil sith are just as popular as those about jedi theology.

It's just as bad in the Star Trek world, which is arguably imaginary, and where folk seem just as keen to be Klingons as Vulcans. Outrageous. Klingons? Them and their big, daft foreheads.

You say: "But it's just a bit of fun. Why don't you relax?" Relax? I didn't get where I am today by relaxing. Relaxing is for wimps and moral backsliders. I, madam, am rigid. Rigid with indignation and phlegm.

Film critic Brian Henry Martin reminded the Belfast Telegraph, a newspaper, that in 1932 Belfast city fathers banned the movie Frankenstein for being "unmoral" and "disgusting".

Nobody is suggesting a return to those days. Except me! I love a good ban. All right, we're too late with Dracula Untold. But the next person who impales anybody or speaks Klingon better have a good excuse.

Wednesday: Shedding some light on why so many of us are struggling to lose the pounds

Many things conspire to make us fat. Our glands, our genes and what's that other one? Oh yes: stuffing our faces with food. But top boffins at yonder Manchester University have come up with another reason: keeping your glowing smartphone in your bedroom at night.

Ah yes, that must be it. Pass me that bag of donuts as I work up the strength to heave my smartphone out the window. Actually, don't our smartphones go off after a couple of minutes? Oh well, who's to quibble while we nibble? While the smartphone angle got the headlines, it's any source of light that turns us to blubber at night. Our bodies need serious darkness to produce the hormone that burns the lard. So, if you've got a lamppost at the window you should divert your donut money to buying thick curtains. Moral? If you want to be light, kill the light.

Friday: Why two is not too much...

The alcohol debate continues unabated. Moderation, teetotalism, or who gives a damn? Nothing is simple.

The fundamental difficulty with alcohol is that you are presented with something that makes you feel good and told to stop doing it. It's a catch-22. But what happens if you have too many twos?

Now they're talking about people who have two glasses of wine a night being "mild alcoholics". At this rate, they'll be making the term "alcoholic" quite respectable.

Personally, I could never abide the two-glasses brigade, with their disagreeable sensibleness. Amateurs. Irritating too, like these people in the office who eat one square of a chocolate bar and leave the rest on their desk all day.

My preference was always for those in the Scottish Highland tradition who smashed the top off a bottle of whisky so it all had to be drunk. They're all dead now, of course.

Saturday: Titanic couldn't avoid her fate

I'm often taken by what might have been. Not just me. Top theoretical physicists talk about parallel realities where alternative outcomes occur.

Baloney, like all theoretical physics – basically just philosophical musing with added atoms – but fascinating as science fiction.

So to the Titanic, which nearly hit another couple of liners while blundering out of Southampton on its fateful voyage.

If it had collided with one of these rather than an iceberg later, the voyage might have been cancelled.

One way or another, it was destined to hit something. Unless, in some parallel universe, it sailed serenely on and never made the headlines.

Sunday: Clarkson high-tails from Argies

As you would expect, Jeremy Clarkson had to hide under his hotel bed in Argentina while an angry mob armed with pickaxe handles sought him out for discussions. The pantomime dame-faced motoring broadcaster had been driving a Porsche bearing the licence plate h982 FKL, which the natives took for a derogatory reference to the 1982 Falklands conflict.

Jeremy has denied being so crass. However, oddly enough, no one believes the top controversialist, famed for provoking foreign persons with his razor-sharp wit. Later, pursued by a mob to Chile, he accelerated from 0 to 62mph at a record rate. Impressive.

Monday: Behold the brainbox Prince

Just when you thought the world couldn't spring any more surprises up pops someone who describes Prince Philip as intelligent.

A "raging intellect" indeed, opined artist Jonathan Yeo. "Very knowledgeable," he added, taking things too far.

It seems Prince Philip didn't get where he is today by dimly dropping clangers in foreign places.

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