There are a lot of things you can miss when you’re not in Ireland. The craic, the banter, the Guinness, the stereotypes. And even things I despised before before I left don’t seem all that bad. I mean, maybe the racist taxi drivers are OK after all, maybe you can’t trust the wogs or the nips, who am I to say they’re not all a bit shifty.
But there are some things that just can’t be forgiven, and I’m still convinced that The Irish Times Saturday magazine is a blot on all society; a decadent obsequious wankrag that would make even Caligula vomit with rage (as opposed to vomiting to make more room for delicious elephant pie).
My current situation (unemployed,alone) has led my disdain for ‘The Magazine’ to be transformed from a tiny, furious fetus who would kick my belly as I let my friends touch, and my relatives would tell me what a cute little metaphor he’d be, into a 116 foot rage giant who would tear my urethra apart before ripping off my head and pissing down my neck just because he could.
It’s most abhorrent quality is the blatant hypocrisy; a magazine that 2 years ago couldn’t get a sentence out without a mention of the Celtic Tiger, and how fluffy and wonderful everything was, and once had ‘Rasberries and Mascarpone’ on their ‘What’s Hot’ list (because ‘Strawberries and Cream is so passé’) now harp on about how the Celtic cubs can’t survive in the Celtic wilderness, and are being picked off by Recessionary Game-hunters ploughing through the plains of disenfranchisement.
Firstly, a Celtic Tiger would be as shit an animal as it is a metaphor, and would almost definitely be destroyed by a Gallic Bear in an international economy metaphor duel. Secondly, the people who write for and read the Irish Times Magazine aren’t generally as badly hit by the recession as many others, though admittedly they may have to switch back to strawberries and cream.
In my mind there are no editorial meetings for the magazine, but rather a series of macabre dinner parties with the word ‘Recession’ projected on the wall while all the guests fart through their mouths and snort crumbled up meringue off of Superquinn Club cards, while Rosin Ingle sits in a bowl chair in the corner contemplating her error.
That said, knowing my luck, they probably did a special supplement today on how to make the world a better place by wiping orphan’s tears and giving stray dogs bellyrubs. ‘Cause that’s the kind of pricks they are.
I have no idea what UPC stands for. If I were to hazard a guess though I’d say it stands for ‘Ultimate Pack of C*nts’. In our household we have been subscribers of NTL since the good old days of analogue TV and until fairly recently there had been little to complain about—leaving me at a loose end. But ever since Chorus NTL became “a UPC company” our telly has fallen victim to a succession of little faults that threatens to turn my hair grey. Now here’s a good gripe I can really sink my teeth into!
Apparently I’m not the only one who’s got issue with UPC and their shoddy service. Newstalk presenter Claire Byrne recently gave the UPC Ireland chief executive a good grilling on behalf of the hundreds of disgruntled customers who had called in to The Breakfast Show to complain about the standard of product and support they had received. The man’s only response was (and I’m only paraphrasing slightly here) “Oh, well we’re doing our best to improve our service”.
Since that interview, however, the problems have kept on coming. Maybe it’s time Ireland’s couch potatoes got off their arse and made the switch to Sky. Maybe then your man from UPC would stop paying lip service and actually put his money where his mouth is. I would have made the switch already myself were we not bound by a 12-month contract. Maybe I should just swallow my pride and cut my losses, but I just can’t bear the idea of giving UPC a further €100 just to have them terminate the contract.
We Irish do love a good moan now and again I’ll give you that, but, believe me, I take no great pleasure in bemoaning UPC’s substandard service. I’m willing to concede there may be more important matters in the world right now, but there are none that hit closer to home.
Having been rowing for Trinity now for roughly 7 months I am programmed to hate UCD and what little they stand for. It’s beaten into you from the first day you show up at training: "You must beat UCD. UCD are the enemy. If you don’t beat UCD they’ll beat you, your family and all those you hold dear." Never mind that both my parents went to UCD, or that some of my best friends go to UCD, or that, contrary to what I’ve been led to believe, the students aren’t actually the devil’s spawn. No, UCD is our sworn enemy and it is our god-given duty to defeat them. It’s like Voldemort vs Harry Potter, Magneto vs Xavier, or the Undertaker vs Brett ‘The Hitman’ Hart. And we’re the good guys. Aren’t we?
Quotas are a bad idea. Period. They increase the price of imports, hurt exports and, ultimately, hurt economic growth.
The common arguments in favour of quotas, and protectionism in general, are fundamentally flawed. In some cases they are just plain wrong! For instance, the argument that quotas helps protect jobs simply doesn’t hold water. By introducing a programme of quotas you limit the amount of imports into the country, which in turn limits the amount of exports out of the country, and ultimately the country is the worse for it. Jobs might be saved in an inefficient industry but it comes a significant cost. If free trade was allowed to flourish those jobs would be replaced — and then some — with new jobs in other, more efficient, sectors. By exploiting comparative advantages, free trade actually creates jobs!
Quotas are hard to justify on any level and politicians are finally starting to listen to what economists have been saying for decades: quotas do more harm than good. One area, however, where quotas may still be worth their salt is in instances where overproduction is threatening to exhaust a natural resource. For example, quotas that limit the amount of fish that can be harvested in a certain fishery are in use in countries such as Iceland and the USA. In this case, quotas may actually be serving a common good and not just lining the pockets of money-grubbing importers at the expense of everyone else.
Truth be told, I was struggling to think of anything anything beginning with ‘Q’ that sucked. So thank god for quotas!
I know, controversial, but Karl Marx has got a lot to answer for. His work inspired Lenin and the Bolsheviks to overthrow the Russian capitalist establishment. He drew attention to the class division and class conflict that existed between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, in turn inciting a revolution. He was a man of good intentions but history has proven that his radical ideas fail in the real world.
Karl Marx was a man without an endgame, a man with a half-baked vision that could not withstand close scrutiny. He admitted that the only way to seize ownership of capital from the upper-class elite was to use force but how the bourgeoisie would learn to accept it was not made so clear. Once common ownership was a reality, Marx argued, class divisions would slowly die out. However, he didn’t know how or how long, insisting that a “temporary” communist regime must hold the peace in the interim.
To me that not only seems unlikely, but to be missing the point entirely. Marx pigeonholed everyone from every walk of life into a narrowly defined stratum; you were either a member of the bourgeoisie or of the proletariat, one or the other. He didn’t see the world as being populated by individuals but as a battleground on which diametrically opposed classes fought. What Marx failed to understand is that individuals do not act in herds, that self-actualization is a very real goal us humans strive for, and that a certain degree of inequality in terms of income is not only natural but also desirable.
After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 political and economic philosopher Francis Fukuyama declared that this spelled the “end of history”. That statement may have been just a shade triumphalist but there’s no doubt in my mind that that moment represented the end of Marxism as a credible philosophy and, similarly, the end of Communism as a viable form of rule.
Winston Churchill famously once said that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried.” He mightn’t be thought of as a great thinker like Marx is but at least Churchill saw the world as it was.
I’m not talking here about the type of lists you find in the Guinness Book of Records. Nor, indeed, am I taking a swipe at my own A-Z list (now why would I want to do that?). No, the bone I have to pick is with those lists that require subjectivity and partiality.
In particular, I’m thinking of those Top 100 lists on Channel 4 as presented by the king of the one-liner, Jimmy Carr, such as 100 Greatest Christmas Moments and 100 Greatest Tearjerkers. The channel even broadcast an evening-long programme listing the 100 worst living Britons — presented by, you guessed it, Jimmy Carr. If Jimmy Carr doesn’t watch it he soon might find himself making it into the list.
These lengthy countdowns are an indictment of the health of British-made programming, but, on a more personal level, they also stoke intense anger. I don’t know who exactly is surveyed when these lists are compiled but one gets the feeling that they mustn’t have a clue what they’re talking about — just like the “celebrity experts” who appear on the show to share their misplaced opinions.
Thankfully I haven’t seen Jimmy Carr introducing a brand-new list for quite some time. Maybe he’s finally had enough of having to rein in his caustic brand of wit and he’ll return to being fucking funny again. Or maybe Channel 4 have simply run out of ideas — although that’s presumably what led them to put these lists into production in the first place. I mean, where do Channel 4 go from here? The 100 Greatest Lists as presented by Michael McIntyre? The 100 Smelliest Gypsies as presented by Jimmy Carr? How about The 100 Funniest Moments Involving A Cat and A Household Appliance?
I can almost hear the pitch at Channel 4’s headquarters.
"Hi I’m Katy Perry. I don’t have the voice or the songwriting talent to get myself noticed so instead I’m just going to do a song about kissing a girl and liking it. I’ve tried self-harm and crashing Lily Allen’s parties to get attention but that hasn’t worked so hopefully suggesting I’m a lesbian will do the trick. I’m not a lesbian though, just so you know. That would just be gross."
Women say there’s nothing more painful than giving birth. They say us men will never know what it feels like to experience such excruciating and prolonged pain. If what they say is true, that means giving birth is not only more painful than getting a stiletto in the cojones, it’s also more painful than sitting through every agonizing minute of “Juno”. In that case, I don’t know how you girls do it.
Everyone knows what Juno’s all about: teenage pregnancy. 16-year-old Juno (named after the Greek goddess of marriage and childbirth) has just discovered she’s pregnant with the child of mild-mannered friend/boyfriend Paulie Bleeker (mild-mannered Michael Cera). The “A word” is the first thing on her mind but of course, in the end, she can’t go through with it. Instead Juno opts to look around for suitable adopters. With the support of her father (J.K. Simmons) and step-mother (Allison Janney) Juno finds the “perfect” couple, adroitly played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. Along the way, between conception and childbirth, Juno faces hurdles both in her relationship with the future parents of her child and her unusual relationship with the actual father, Bleeker.
To call Juno a coming-of-age story would be completely wide of the mark; childbirth isn’t some rite-of-passage that marks a teenager’s accession into adulthood. Instead Juno is the tale of a young smart-alecky, facetious know-it-all who discovers that the best way to get the guy is to get pregnant with his kid. Forgive me if it’s now me being flippant but Juno has got to be the most irritating protagonist since Jim Carrey last appeared gurning on the big screen. Oh no, Juno is no goddess! Supposedly 16-years-old, she talks in a manner way beyond her years. Yes, she abbreviates every second word like all brats in American movies do, but she also has an acerbic wit and penchant for smart-aleck ripostes that only a screenwriter could have.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody’s win for Best Screenplay at this year’s Oscars only serves to confirm that the Academy get it wrong more often than not. The script is completely devoid of all charm or humour. I laughed once throughout the whole duration of the film. I laughed at least ten times during director Jason Reitman’s previous feature-length effort “Thank You For Smoking” — by my count making it more than 10 times funnier than “Juno”.
“Thank You For Smoking” was one of those films, like an Aaron Sorkin script, that had the actors exchanging rapid-fire ripostes back and forth as happens only on paper. I find this style of writing generally quite hard to come to terms with but at least the dialogue was witty. Juno, on the other hand, is burdened with a script that is not half as witty as it thinks it is and exponentially more irritating than it would like to believe it is. Here’s an excerpt that provides a perfect illustration:
Leah: Yo Yo Yiggady Yo.
Juno MacGuff: I’m at suicide risk.
Juno MacGuff: No, it’s Morgan Freeman. Do you have any bones that need collecting?
Leah: Only the one in my pants…
Juno MacGuff: I’m pregnant.
Leah: What? Honest to blog?
Juno MacGuff: Yeah. Yeah, it’s Bleekers.
Leah: It’s probably just a food baby. Did you have a big lunch?
Juno MacGuff: No, this is not a food baby all right? I’ve taken like three pregnancy tests, and I’m forshizz up the spout.
Leah: How did you even generate enough pee for three pregnancy tests? That’s amazing…
Juno MacGuff: I don’t know, I drank like, ten tons of Sunny D… Anyway dude, I’m telling you I’m pregnant and you’re acting shockingly cavalier.
Leah: Is this for real? Like, for real for real?
Juno MacGuff: Unfortunately, yes.
Leah: Oh my GOD. Oh shit! Phuket, Thailand!
Juno MacGuff: There we go. That was kind of the emotion that I was searching for on the first take.
“Shockingly cavalier”? “Forshizz up the spout”? You think that reads awful? Well it isn’t any better when the lines are being forced out through the actors’ mouths like acidic bile. It doesn’t help either that everyone talks in the same way with a few exceptions. Good writers give each character a distinct voice. However, this “Diablo Cody” woman (who, in case you were wondering, is an ex-stripper) thinks everyone should talk like her. I can’t imagine anything worse.
However, if I was forced to think of something worse it would probably be having the Juno soundtrack blasted through a pair of headphones taped to my ears. In an effort to boost its “indie” credentials, “Juno” features some of the most cutesy acoustic numbers to ever piss all over a film, the kind that scream “kooky!” over the same drab guitar riffs.
Notwithstanding all the hoopla, I wasn’t that pushed to see “Juno” on its release. After finally giving it a watch I feel like my suspicions have been vindicated. Come to think of it, the film’s only plus point is that it’s mercifully short. Nothing I say will stop some people from thinking of “Juno” as a quirky masterpiece, but that won’t stop me from letting my lone voice of disapproval be heard amid the clamour of adulation.
Is there a more fickle bunch of people than indie music fans? The Indie genre is the equivalent of fashion, with seemingly a new “fad” coming and going every year. In the early noughties The Strokes were the hottest band on the block, only to be supplanted a year or so later by Franz Ferdinand. Now you mention Franz Ferdinand to someone au fait with the indie music scene and they’ll more than likely scoff at you and tell you to pick up a copy of Elbow’s new album.
That’s the thing with indie music: today’s hottest band are tomorrow’s has-beens. The lifespan of a typical career in pop music has long been ephemeral, but it it seems to me like the passage of time can be just as cruel (if not crueller) to indie acts as it is to Britney Spears and the like.
The problem is that aficionados of indie music are the biggest music snobs you’re likely to come across, more so than fans of opera or the canon of Johann Sebastian Bach. They hate to see their favourite indie bands court mainstream attention, and as soon as it’s felt that the band has amassed a fan base greater than a few thousand they’re already searching high and low for the next great band no one’s heard of.
There is an element of one-upmanship inherent in the indie music scene. There is no game any indie music follower loves to play more than the ‘Have you heard of [insert name of obscure band or artist here]?’ game. If the reply is ‘no’ you’re awarded a point and a feeling of self-worth, and if the answer is ‘yes’ your opponent (presumably a fellow indie music fan, so long as you want to keep things competitive) scores a point to your chagrin.
So if you see two guys in plaid or skinny jeans asking each other about obscure bands or artists you know now to avoid them. Another way of spotting indie music snobs is if you overhear one say “I preferred their earlier stuff.”
I’m a big fan of hip hop, so you might think “How can he slag a whole genre of music when he’s a fan of a genre notorious for promoting misogyny, violence and bling?” Well say what you like about hip hop, but at least the fans don’t turn their backs on the music. I still regularly play music by The Notorious B.I.G. and The Wu-Tang Clan; how many indie music fans still listen to The Strokes?
Hype is a dangerous thing. Get swept up in it and you’re letting yourself in for a crushing fall. Because no matter how wonderful the finished article is, the hype storm will have whipped up such an air of frenzied anticipation that nothing short of a miracle will leave you sated.
I admit I’ve been sucked into a hype vortex — a swirl of media hoopla and speculation that grows exponentially as the reality draws ever closer — on more than one occasion. It’s in our very nature to listen to the hype, to want to believe in hype — even if you’re an eternal pessimist like myself. It might sound silly now, but there was a time not too long ago when every year I’d count down to the month of October, when the latest iteration of my favourite football video game, Pro Evolution Soccer, would be released. I’d spend week after week checking for titbits on the internet (and, before that, in magazines) relating to the forthcoming iteration of my beloved football series. Every year, when the release date finally came around, I’d be thoroughly underwhelmed by what was really just a slightly tweaked version of last year’s game. But the point is I still bought the game every year.
With the US Presidential Election only 2 days away, the hype machine is in overdrive. There are still people out there who are trying to convince the citizens of America that McCain would make a great Commander-in-Chief, but they’ll probably only have the subjunctive tense to use come November 4th. The real hype surrounds Obama and his campaign. For the record, I do not think of Obama as simply a man of great eloquence and charisma; intelligent, empathetic and pragmatic, I think he has all the ingredients to make a great President. However, there’s little doubt that the world is not going to be all rosy if/when Obama steps into the Oval Office. If elected, Obama will be saddled with huge government debts and the seemingly impossible task of extricating the country from one war and stepping up military presence in another. I’m sure Obama will relish the challenge, but I’m sure he’s be the first to admit that it’s not going to be easy.
Hope is a powerful thing — just ask Obama, whose success has been built on his unwavering promise of change and hope. However, so is hype; the challenge is to differentiate between hype that is grounded in the truth and hype that is just that.
You would think such a travesty of justice as election tampering would be the preserve of corrupt Sub-Saharan regimes. You wouldn’t think America of all places, the great champion of Western democracy, could stand to see an election, the cornerstone of democracy, surreptitiously manipulated for political gain. But it happened.
November 2000 — that’s when it happened. Florida —that’s where it happened. George Bush’s cronies —they’re who made it happen. Al Gore was beating George Bush in the race to become the US President, but if George Bush won Florida he would steal it. And steal it he did. After the outcome was judged too close to call, the State of Florida ordered a manual recount in key counties. As the votes were being recounted, George Bush’s margin diminished and diminished. Al Gore was going to win! But then Bush’s team of lawyers stepped in and took a case to the predominately-Republican US Supreme Court, who ordered the recount to cease. The rest, as they say, is history.
I don’t know the full story of what happened on the day of election, or on the days that immediately followed, but I’ve no doubt the wrong man was elected to the Oval Office. Everyone knows about the ballots designed to confuse, the ones that lead thousands to unwittingly vote for someone other than Al Gore. But not everyone knows that, before the election, the names of tens of thousands of alleged felons, half of them black, were illegally struck off the voting roll. So much for the “Land of Opportunity”.
I don’t have to go to Funderland to know that I hate it. Maybe there was a time in my life when Funderland would have been heaven on earth, but now, as I approach the ripe old age of 20, I can’t think of many things worse than spinning around in a Waltzer to the sound of pumping techno music and belligerent youths.
I’m sure at one stage or another I would have jumped at the opportunity to go to Funderland — then again, I also used to hanker to go to Butlins when I was younger. I remember thinking, wistfully, how I wish my parents were the cool sort, the ones who’d let their sons watch ‘Candyman’ and eat candy floss till they’re teeth hurt. I felt as if I was missing out on a rite-of-passage every young Dubliner was supposed to experience. Fortunately, that’s a sentiment I no longer have.
It’s the human element that puts me off Funderland these days. To be honest, the promise of Bumper Cars gets me just as excited as it did when I was ten. No, it’s the throng of people that would get to me; people on all sorts — booze, pills, clouds of candy floss. I don’t want to come across as a complete snob, but Funderland does tend to attract the worst elements of Dublin. I remember a friend of mine telling me in the playground the following day how he’d seen a couple of boozed-up blokes going at one another hammer and tongs in front of the ferris wheel. That’s not I want to see — if I did I’d just head to Harcourt St. on a Saturday night. I bet the A&E units across the city are jam-packed the weekend Funderland comes to town.
Funderland’s rides might all be in disrepair and run by a bunch of inbred Cyclops and I wouldn’t care so long as the people there were there to enjoy the rides and keep to themselves. But alas, people just go and have to ruin it for everyone! Maybe I should have saved this rant until I arrive at the letter P. Maybe I don’t hate Funderland? Maybe I hate people?
Admittedly there can be no denying that the award for ‘Most Annoying Star Wars Character’ goes to Jar Jar Binks — but at least there was only one of him! Return of the Jedi is blighted by literally swarms of Ewoks, little bear-like critters who join Luke and co. in the fight against The Dark Side. If you ask me, the Star Wars saga didn’t jump the shark when The Phantom Menace was released; the exact point can be traced back to the very moment the bloody Ewoks waddled onto the screen. Jar Jar Binks is often thought of as the misstep that cost Lucas legions of fans (not to mention his dignity) but, from my point of view, Star Wars was never the same after the Ewoks. Shame on you George Lucas: you may have sold a boatload of fluffy merchandise on the back of them, but the Ewoks exposed you as the sell out you are.
Deal Or No Deal is a show only Homer Simpson could find remotely fascinating… or so I thought. Depressingly, it seems there are a lot of people out there who find watching ordinary people open boxes thrilling. And it’s not just the Yanks and the Brits who have a soft spot for boxes: Lebanon, among many other countries around the world, even has its own version of the show.
At least Deal Or No Deal in the Lebanon isn’t hosted by Noel Edmonds. Conceited and smarmy, Edmonds exudes the air of a creepy man who’s overstayed his welcome. He’s also a grade-A waffler; you feel like he could waffle on about boxes for hours if you gave him half a chance.
I guess when the format of the show is as simple (and as stupid) as it is, you have to excuse Edmonds his trespasses. I mean, am I missing something or is the game just one big game of Eeny, meeny, miny, moe? OK there’s the offer from the “banker” over the phone, but it basically boils down to a high-stakes game of chance.
Don’t tell that to the contestants though. They seem to be under the illusion that they can tease out the identity of the prize box; they think that because their lucky number is 4, or because they had a visceral reaction to seeing box number 11, that they can make an “informed” decision. It’s actually amazing how long the contestant will mull over which box to choose. I guess they do have to fill a 45-minute show — if it was me up there in the hot seat the show would be over in 10 minutes!
I’d watch The Weakest Link and Who Wants to be a Millionaire the odd time, but I can’t stand watching some greedy moron deliberating over which unmarked box to opt for (no box is more likely than the other, you twat!). Deal Or No Deal? No deal, thanks very much.
… or ‘B is for Bloody Annoying Break’. Just as I’m mulling over what my entry beginning with ‘B’ will be I go and get what’s called a ‘boxer’s fracture’ in my right hand. God has some twisted sense of humour, I’ll tell you that.
According to my good friend “Mr. Wikipedia”, “A boxer’s fracture, also known as the brawler’s fracture, is the common name for a fracture at the neck of the fifth metacarpal bone… usually caused by the impact of a clenched fist with an immovable object, such as a wall, a set of wooden stairs, a cement floor, or, most commonly, a skull. The pinky knuckle tends to lead the rest of the knuckles in a hard punch, and the knuckle compresses and snaps the neck of the metacarpal bone.”
What the above description fails to mention is that a boxer’s fracture typically takes about 6 weeks to fully repair itself. We’re literally in ‘worst case scenario’ territory here. I walked into the hospital’s A&E waiting room expecting some muscle trauma, or at the very worst, a minor hairline fracture. I certainly didn’t expect the doctor to tell me I’ll be lugging a stupid cast around for 6 weeks!
I’m not going to go into how I incurred the injury, but let’s just say it’s not called a ‘boxer’s fracture’ for nothing.
No cycling, no Playstation, no writing, and no gym makes Jack a sad boy…