Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ignorance is bliss

Sometimes I feel like Brentano.

Then, I feel terrible for every thinking such thoughts.

But sometimes, the world presents too damn convincing a case for me to think otherwise.

Take for example a seemingly innocuous, yet damning, action.

The Oxegen '09 headliners have been announced. They are Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol and The Killers.

The Killers have now headlined twice in three years. Kings of Leon have headlined twice in three years. Snow Patrol have headlined twice in three years. A fantastic display of imagination by MCD. Yet people will still flock to buy tickets.

Give me Electric Picnic any day. Maybe I'll see Kasper and Annerl there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slumdog millionaires?

I left Slumdog Millionaire tonight on an emotional high; it's a smashing feelgood hit. But this brought me down to earth a bit;

"Rubina Ali (who played Latika as a child) was paid £500 for a year’s work and Azharuddin Ismail (who played Salim as a child) was paid £1,700. The child actors continue to live in makeshift shacks in the slums of Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai. According to the UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, Ismail's home has been demolished by the local authorities and he now sleeps under a sheet of plastic tarpaulin with his father, who suffers from tuberculosis."

Director Danny Boyle has insisted that trust funds were set up for both children and that their educations were paid for. It's not the first bit of criticism the film, which is tipped to take this year's Best Picture gong at the Oscar, has garnered. Critics in India have accused it of demonising Hindus, purveying "poverty porn" and grossly generalising life in India on the whole.

I'd still recommend you see it, and take from it what you will. I found it fascinating and utterly uplifting, a story which is fundamentally based on human relationships and rises beyond the political (even though some scenes are indirectly political in nature.)

Still, it seems that not everyone involved with Slumdog has been made a millionaire.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tom Traubert's Blues

This might be considered a lazy excuse for a blog, but it's a song which captures perfectly everything great about Tom Waits. It's his blend of storytelling, songwriting and world creation at its most potent. Sometimes I wish I inhabited the dystopian little hamlets of the darker recesses of Master Waits' mind. At least there, you'd know where you stand.

Wasted and wounded, it ain't what the moon did
I got what I paid for now
See you tomorrow, hey Frank can I borrow
A couple of bucks from you?
To go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

I'm an innocent victim of a blinded alley
And I'm tired of all these soldiers here
No one speaks English, and everything's broken
And my Stacys are soaking wet
To go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

Now the dogs are barking
And the taxi cab's parking
A lot they can do for me
I begged you to stab me
You tore my shirt open
And I'm down on my knees tonight
Old Bushmills I staggered
You buried the dagger
In your silhouette window light
To go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

Now I've lost my Saint Christopher
Now that I've kissed her
And the one-armed bandit knows
And the maverick Chinaman, and the cold blooded signs
And the girls down by the strip tease shows, go
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

No, I don't want your sympathy
The fugitives say
That the streets aren't for dreaming now
Manslaughter dragnets and the ghosts that sell memories
They want a piece of the action anyhow
Go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

And you can ask any sailor
And the keys from the jailor
And the old men in wheelchairs know
That Matilda's the defendant, she killed about a hundred
And she follows wherever you may go
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

And it's a battered old suitcase
To a hotel someplace
And a wound that will never heal
No prima donna, the perfume is on an
Old shirt that is stained
With blood and whiskey
And goodnight to the street sweepers
the night watchmen flame keepers
And goodnight, Matilda, too

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Talkin' 'bout my generation

The kids of the sixties are fondly referred to as the radicals, or the flower power generations, with defining cultural epochs like Woodstock giving them material for rose-tinted nostalgia.

The kids of the nineties are Generation X, who grew up with Kurt Cobain, NIN and Sonic Youth. The rich tapestry that was their musical playground was outshone only by their glaring cynicism towards anything and everything.

Our generation, however, will more than likely be characterised by the way we've taken to social networking sites like the proverbial ducks to water. I'm not criticising this for one bit. In fact, I think that sites like Bebo and Facebook have brought back the lost art of conversation, although not without a few mutations along the way.

First there was email. Then there was texting. Now, there's Bebo. The amount of different avenues open to our generation for communication with our peers makes us the envy of our elders. In a paradoxical manner, we've returned to the old tight-knit village mentality of our past - we all know what the other person is doing. The phenomenon of "Bebo-stalking" has seen to that.

Not only has online social networking opening up new avenues for communication, it's also given us new ways to break it down. Simple actions like forgetting to "give love", dumping someone as your "other half" and deleting someone from your friends list can have repercussions far beyond the seemingly innocuous initial action. But I'm exaggerating this aspect somewhat - no one's died as a result of being poked on Facebook (yet).

What is far more disturbing, however, is how these technological marvels can be manipulated for perverse purposes. The creation of fake profiles or leaving anonymous, abusive comments is one of the most prevalent and potent forms of cyber-bullying, and there's precious little ways to stop it. It's up to the hosts of these sites to be vigilant and crack down on any such behaviour. They seem to be taking a step in the right direction - most such sites have included a "report abuse" function, so fair-minded, peaceful posters can point the finger of blame at bullies and miscreants.

In years to come, we'll be seen as the generation who revolutionised communication. Think of that next time you're putting a hit out on someone on Mafia Wars.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Family values

When a serious crime such as incest is governed by a law which has not been updated since 1908, you know something's wrong with your country's legal system. In Ireland, incest is a crime punishable with a life sentence - but only if you're a man. Women get off with seven years, as happened with a recent case in Monaghan where a woman forced her fourteen-year old son to have sex with her while her other children lived in hunger and squalor.

The facts of the case are sickening in themselves, but what's more vomit-inducing is that the state were aware of this woman's abhorrent level of care towards her children eight years ago, but failed to take any action on the grounds that she was being supported by "a right-wing Catholic group," who would have probably assisted her with an injuction against any order issued by the State to remove her children from her care.

You heard correctly. The State were afraid to stand up to a minority group who would be laughed into obscurity by the media and the public.

I'm speechless (for once) and I really don't know what to say on this one. There's not a lot that needs saying, really.

(In)actions speak louder than words.

On another little aside, I noticed a letter to the editor in The Irish Examiner, wherein a reader railed against those who criticised her local bishop for his perceived inaction in handling clerical sex abuse cases in his diocese. The woman went on to criticise groups like One In Four for focusing on such acts exclusively (her words, not mine), while other acts of child abuse, such as teaching our kids sex education in schools, were going on unabridged. I'm outta here. The inmates are clearly running the asylum.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The little robot that could

Last night I watched a film which I'm thoroughly sickened wasn't nominated at this year's Oscars for Best Picture - Wall-E.

Having watched the first ten minutes as a form of procrastination in Tunney's Den of Time Wasting (the video feed was out of sync with the sound, which led to a frustratingly early end to proceedings), I was intrigued by the prospect of the film, so I was encouraged to rent it last night when I had precious little else to do. I've never regretted a decision less.

It's not just that the quality of the CGI is breathtaking, or that the environments created are stunning. The characters are intensely likeable and the unlikely romantic story at the film's heart is entirely believable. It's also a film that appeals to all ages - the youngest of children will be enraptured by the colours and the visual setpieces, adults will chew over the food for thought that is the ecological message at the film's heart. But it's the fact that the film works on so many levels which makes it one of, if not the best, films to have been released in 2008.

I was reading some inane trivia about Wall-E (as is my wont with films I watch) and I was amazed by the production process. The team behind the film watched old Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films every lunchtime for a year and a half to capture the visual comedy which shines throughout the film. A human character does not engage in dialogue for 39 minutes. The first half of the film is merely a visual and emotional feast - Wall-E does not need to communicate to us his perceptions and feelings because the filmmakers make us acutely aware of them through various cues. It's an incredible achievement that a film so sparse on dialogue could be nominated for Best Original Screenplay at this year's Oscars.

It's one of the few films which has successfully transcended the traditional prejudices and barriers which cage in animated films and has stood up and been acknowledged in the minds of many "serious" film critics. The only demographic who disliked it were American conservatives, and their loathing thereof was mainly driven by the political slap in the face that Wall-E represented to them.

It rails against the unchained greed of big business and the callous environmental contempt displayed by such companies. It's an ecological wake-up call far more potent that An Inconvenient Truth and makes far more startling observations on the gluttony of humanity than Super Size Me and one which will appeal to a far wider audience than either of those two. Kids don't want to be the fat guy who writhes on his back like a turtle after he's knocked out of his hover-chair and adults will recoil in horror at the hypnotic effects the overdose of technology and advertising has on the passengers of Axiom.

But all of this social commentary is merely a backdrop to the love story which tugs at your heartstrings from beginning to end. Even though you can see the happy ending coming from a mile off (it's a Disney film, come on!), you still fear the worst when times get tough for Wall-E and Eve. It's storytelling at its most seductive.

Evidently, though, its charms were somewhat lost on the ladies and gentlemen of the Academy. The Oscar for Best Animated Picture is already in the bag, but hopefully it'll make the most of the small mercy it has been offered by picking up Best Original Screenplay*. It's the least it deserves.



*Even with this in mind, I still want In Bruges to win. It's Martin McDonagh, like. It's Irish!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Partial impartiality

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Míchael Martin has responded to Barack Obama's recent moves to bring an end to the abhorrence of Guantanamo Bay by saying that, "“Ireland has consistently called for the closure of Guantanamo and the bringing to trial or release of detainees held there."

Funny that, considering the Fianna Fáil government, of which he is a part, didn't seem to have a problem with Shannon Airport being used for extraordinary rendition flights en route to Gitmo.

Then again, Ireland's military policy has always been a bit funny. It's the neutrality one which cracks me up every time. We don't pick sides? We don't offer help? Get real, people. Since the very moment it was enacted, Ireland's neutrality policy was rendered null and void by the actions of the government of the day. de Valera's move to implement neutrality was partly motivated by logic and reason, partly so by blind nationalistic zeal. It was a two fingers to the British, one which inevitably cost him political standing with Churchill's government.

Then again, we were a small island and a fledgling nation. We lacked the military capacity to take any sort of a stand, and the threat of invasion was real, if unfeasible. Hitler's Operation Green was seen as a back door into Britain, but that was scuppered by the fly in the ointment that was the RAF. Only for the military might and resilience of our near neighbours, we were buggered. Mind you, the Luftwaffe still managed an air strike on Dublin. Mistook us Belfast mein Arsch - we were being warned. Such a curious position we were in - the British and the Germans were complaining about our neutrality, but for entirely different reasons.

But even with this in mind, we still gave assistance to the Allies. Supplies, weather reports, favourable treatment - we were neutral in name only. We were every bit as complicit in the Allied war effort as the Allies themselves. Yet publicly, Churchill and Dev fought their little fight, and even with Dev's claim that a small little island which had withstood tyranny for centuries could stand alone, we would not have been able to make that claim only for the presence of our alleged oppressors. Geography allowed us to keep up the charade, not will or courage.

Fianna Fáil are a party which don't seem to take any lessons from history. True to form, they repeated the mistakes of their history by allowing Bush's government to use Shannon as a refueling spot for extraordinary rendition flights and troop deposits, all the while beating the neutrality drum. It's a buzzword that the public seem to have picked up on, too. Every European treaty ever sent our way, from Maastricht to Lisbon, will allegedly "compromise our neutrality." Bullshit. Our neutrality was ruined from its inception.

The best thing we could ever do is renounce this ridiculous sham we call neutrality and declare ourselves complicit in the wills of the West. We support Palestine. We are favourable towards America and Britain. Let's call a spade a spade, people. Besides, how bad could things possibly be without it?

We're too small to be considered of any strategical importance by an "enemy". We have no technology or manpower worth sending to fight in a war (though we do make surprisingly good peacekeepers. Probably because we just offer innumerate cups of tea.) To put it simply, we'd be the kids who'd be picked last on the team. But at the moment, we're just sitting on the sidelines, sulking, secretly longing to be chosen, but all the while declaring our total disinterest in proceedings.

Neutrality is unachievable, so let's stop trying to achieve it. Let's just be honest about ourselves.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A kick in the balls

If I'm one thing, it's passionate about sport. Although I'll keep attentive when watching any code, two particular disciplines for which I reserve special affections are rugby and soccer, both for very different reasons. In recent times, I've come to question which I prefer. The answer has always been clear. In fact, I'm surprised I ever asked the question.

Soccer has this addictive quality, like an opiate of the masses - and that's what it is, essentially. It's a pastime which keeps voting working classes apathetic and otherwise occupied and, for hooligans, gives them a twisted pursuit with which to escape the mundane nature of their existence. For the armchair supporter, though, it's much less politically charged. It's simply a primal urge to roar at the bright colours and fast movements because it releases endorphins and adrenaline, or so non-fans would have you believe. There's always something distinctly tribal about being a fan, no doubt, but to what extent the primal nature of such feelings is taken depends on the code in question.

With soccer, it can be quite frightening, as numerous incidents of homophobic, racist, xenophobic or sectarian chanting and publicised events of organised hooliganism have proven. But only certain people have fallen into that level of addiction, and for the majority, it remains a harmless distraction. This doesn't stop the feeling of dejection at a crucial loss, the euphoria which accompanies a vital win or the smug satisfaction that comes with ribbing a colleague or friend who supports a team your side just thumped. There's no such thing as a friendly rivalry in soccer. The players of an opposition team and the club itself are the subject of an irrational hatred based on geographical proximity or historical grievance.

The sinister element of the sport always has me uneasy about soccer, which is why I always come to the conclusion that I prefer rugby. It's a sport founded on respect and camaraderie - as the old saying goes, rugby is a sport for thugs played by gentlemen, soccer is a sport for gentlemen played by thugs. Following a rugby team, for me, is nothing like following a soccer team - there's no sense of detachment. You're in it for the whole hog. You're part of a cult. Geographical and cultural proximity probably have a lot to do with it. My soccer team of choice - Tottenham - are English, while my rugby team - Munster - are Irish through and through. It's difficult, and too late, for me to phrase my feelings adequately, which is probably why non-believers have such a hard time comprehending this phenomenon. It really is something that you must experience for yourself.

For further reading, I'd suggest Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, the single greatest sports book ever written, ever. No-one has ever come as close as that genius to capturing just exactly why it's OK to be in a sulk for the weekend because a professional sportsperson did the job they were paid to do and scored against your team of choice.

Sounds stupid when you phrase it that way, but if that's the case, ignorance is bliss.

I'm quite content to be stupid.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Everybody chill the fuck out, he's got this

Another Barack Obama-themed post. Realistically, "Barack our world" should have been posted today. Whoops.

I must admit, when the Democratic primaries began all that time ago, I was a Hillary Clinton supporter. I spouted all the clichés about Obama (he's inexperienced, he's all rhetoric but no substance), while I praised Clinton for her experience and for her knowledge of the political game - come on, you really think Bill was pulling the strings during his two terms of office? (well, someone was certainly pulling his strings...)

Once it became clear that Clinton was willing to resort to dirty tricks and was losing her facade of calmness, it was evident that Obama was the superior candidate. The man is coolness personified; he never gets heated, he never loses his temper, but he can still be passionate, as we saw during his inauguration speech where he called upon not just Americans, but all the peoples of the world, to dig in and fight back against the global recession with hard graft and optimism.

Yet still, the right will find pointless reasons to rail against him. Ann Coulter, a right cunt with ears if ever there was one, insists on referring to him as "B. Hussein Obama", as though his middle name gives some deep, personal insight into his political and religious persuasions. Thankfully, the louder and more inane their shrieking becomes, the less attention will be paid to it.

Give him a chance, though. He's not Jesus Mk II. It's quite possible that once he's briefed, any plans for radical change will go out the window once he's faced with the reality of the situation. What's most important is that he's bringing a measured, considered approach to a situation which demands just that.

I think this sums up the situation quite accurately;

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can Wii play too?

As my mother flails about frantically, cursing with frustration 'cos she can't make that return shot on the Tennis minigame on Wii Sports, it's the first time I've ever seen her enthusiastic about a topic which has caused much consternation in our household - namely computer games, not tennis.

Once a topic of debate (as to how long I should be allowed play them), considerable ignorance and misunderstanding and utter disinterest, they've suddenly come to the fore. For that, I have my mother's Wii to thank, a Christmas present from my father, and a fine bit of inspiration on his behalf.

While her knowledge thereof mightn't be as in-depth as a hardcore, or even a casual gamer, she's certainly become aware of the simplistic joy behind games. I'm glad, because now she's stopped getting on my case about the amount of time I spend playing them. She understands, at least on a superficial level. While she'll never be enamoured by the intricacies of the Metal Gear Solid saga or the simple pleasures of LittleBigPlanet, she still shouts with joy when she sinks a putt in Tiger Woods. On a personal note, it's brought us a little closer, namely because we've become doubles partners on Wii Sports tennis and sparring partners on the aforementioned golf sim.

This is what Nintendo have done with the Wii and the DS. They've opened gaming up to a generation and a demographic which were previously thought untouchable and deemed a lost cause. On the downside, from a purist's point of view, it's devalued gaming. Nintendo are content to churn out obscenely awful content, usually just replicating the same motion control novelties over and over. To put it simply, I'm sick of seeing a Wii Sports clone on the shelves every other week. Granted, they've have some gems, including Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros Brawl, but everything else is just smegma in comparison.

I've ranted on this topic at length, but I've discovered that I'm completely missing the point of the Wii revolution. I'd wager it's brought a number of families closer together. It's provided laughs, friendly rivalry and countless hours of quality family time. Nintendo have turned gaming from a niche pastime (albeit a niche growing every year) to one which can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age, gender or ability. It's thrown open the doors of the digital world and allowed it to cast its light on the unknowing masses.

For that alone, they deserve our thanks and praise.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Barack our world

On Tuesday January 20th, America will inaugurate its first African-American president in the country's history. Barack Obama will officially become the 44th President of the United States, and with it he brings a wave of hope not seen since the days of JFK.

But are we expecting too much of him? Can an inexperienced junior senator from Illinois really beat the credit crunch, turn the tide of global warming and stop Hank Scorpio's evil scheme? It's too soon to be asking these questions, but his presidency will doubtlessly be judged on how effectively he tackles these two enormous issues during his four years at the helm of the most powerful nation in the world.

The global recession isn't going to be easily overcome, but capitalism goes in cycles, so it's inevitable that things will pick up again, regardless of the damage done. The most important thing about Obama's presidency is the hope it engenders in the masses, and so long as he continues to appear strong, calm and decisive, people will draw inspiration from it and work together to better the situation. At least, that's what we all hope.

Global warming, apparently, needs to have something done about it in the next four years, or we're all cooked. Republican opposition and big business interests could lead to Obama falling short on his campaign promises, but it's too early to say what way that wind is likely to blow. This is an issue on which I'd be much more pessimistic. I feel we missed the boat here a long time ago, and every day the solution slips further and further away from us. I hope I'm proved wrong.

For the time being, though, let's not focus on the future. Let's focus on the immediate present, and the outpouring of joy and hope we'll see on our screens this Tuesday. Finally, the world's most powerful nation have gotten it right.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

RBB GTFO

Let me begin with a disclaimer. In no way am I condoning the actions of Israeli forces in the recent chapter of the perennial Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I completely disagree with their disproportionate show of force in response to the terrorist attacks aimed at them by Hamas.

What I find most sickening about the whole affair, however, is the inherent hypocrisy of anti-Israel protests working their way up and down the world.

Forgive me if my language is somewhat coarse over the course of the following text. I don't want this point to be drowned in a pointlessly pretentious show of eloquence.

Reading of some of the more recent protests, two startling details emerge. In a protest in London, the window of a local Starbuck's was kicked in. A McDonald's was attacked in Paris. Anti-Israelism and anti-Americanism go hand in hand, not to mention the abhorrent anti-Semitism which has also reared its ugly head lately (synagogues have already been attacked across the world.) Why do these people constantly seek to resort to violence? Does this not completely fly in the face of their constant shrieking cries of "justice for Palestine", a nation subjected to some of the most hideous violence in the world today (not that it hasn't dealt out its share, either)?

Scuffles ensued at a recent protest in Dublin between supporters of Israel and those of Palestine. While I can't say for certain who started it, I can take an educated guess. The Irish contingent of these people seem to come from the one core group and have all the time in the world to lend their voices to causes to an almost professional degree, and seem to be led primarily by one man; Richard Boyd Barrett, a contemptible excuse for a human being if ever there was one. He and his cronies are guilty of constantly hijacking worthwhile causes with their own unique brand of deliberately orchestrated violence and disorder.

Take one example particularly relevant to all students. Those who attended the anti-third level fees protest in October 2008 will remember this well. As the student masses gathered, along arrived these professional protestors, whistles, banners and dole cheques in tow. Not only that, but their Glorious Leader, RBB, was inexplicably given a voice on the speakers' podium at the protest's conclusion by someone who really should have known better. He took the opportunity like he takes every opportunity that has ever landed on his grubby little lap, and he twisted it to bleat his ridiculous anti-capitalist agenda to his appreciative followers. Thankfully, the rest of the crowd present were not so gullible.

But what of his followers? Throughout the course of the march, they constantly tried to push their way to the front of the throng, no doubt so as to display their banner and claim it in the name of the Irish Anti-War Movement or whatever fucking moniker they were operating under on that particular day. Before accusations are thrown my way as to not being aware of their true intentions, they've done it before, many a time, so it's easy to spot when they're trying to do it again. I have a message for them come the all-colleges protest on February 4th - fuck off. You're not welcome.

Something worrying came to light after the protest ended. Across the street lay broken eggs and flares (one of which was let off by them during the speakers' time.) When I was asked by a colleague why no government representative was invited to speak, the answer was simple; had a government speaker been present, those wankers would have egged them. What a wonderful image that would have given our cause.

This is democracy, though, and people like this are given a voice. But why do they choose to corrupt that voice? There's such a thing as peaceful civil disobedience.

When you attack police officers, throw projectiles and kick in shop windows, you lose all claim to a "peaceful protest".

When you burn the flag of a sovreign state, you lose all right to call for Palestinian sovreignty.

When you support the actions of terrorist organisations like Hezbollah and Hamas, you lose all right to call Israeli soldiers "terrorists".

When you advocate violence against Israel, you lose all right to call for a end to Israeli violence.

When you demand a boycott of Israeli goods, a move which will impact upon the ordinary, apolitical Israeli citizen, you lose all claim to support the ordinary citizen caught up in all of this.

When you scream for the withdrawal of your nation's Israeli ambassador, consulate or envoy, you lose all right to advocate a diplomatic resolution to the situation.

The slaughter being carried out by the government and armed forces of a nation that was a brainfart of the Allied powers drunk on victory cannot be allowed to continue. But nor can these shambolic, sickening excuses for supposedly "peaceful" protests.

Cop on, people.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Home, sweet. Home.

6Today, I rush through my final exam (Globalisation, you are a harsh mistress). Then, following mandatory drinks and two hours of shouting at a television as though it's stolen my soul, I return home.

I dipped into this topic with a friend recently, where she couldn't seem to be distinguish between "home" and "my house" - the former referring to the town in which I was rared, the latter being my present accomodation in Dublin. I probably didn't explain it to her very well, but here goes.

"My house" is a variable term. In Clonmel, it's Highbury, The Spa. In Dublin, it's 4 Rosemount, Malahide Road, Donnycarney. Both are buildings in which I have a bed and other amenities. Sure kicks sleeping outside in the rain square in the nuts.

"Home" is something entirely different. It's a much more emotive term, something which draws from wells of nostalgia and sentiment somewhere inside the guts, black stuff and about fifty Slim Jims. It's where you feel most comfortable, where you can arise at three in the afternoon, lolligag about and feel like you're not wasting your life away, that you're contributing. It's the place where you want time to freeze so you can remain trapped in apathetic bliss for all eternity.

But, unlike true sentiment, it's a double-edged sword. It has its scoundrels, its mind-numbingly low number of amenities. But it's got people to share the boredom with you. That's not to say that I don't have some very dear friends in the Big Shmoke - I'm delighted to be acquainted with some truly wonderful people, who know who they are.

It's the people you now share a pint with who nearly wet themselves laughing when you twanged a ruler off a desk in sixth class. It's those who kiss their girlfriends on the cheek as you recall their eminent disgust at the prospect of same. It's the individuals whose names you already have written on wedding invitations.

They're home. Not bricks and mortar, not addresses and postcodes (I'm aware we don't have those outside of Dublin), but flesh and blood, laughter, friendly jibes, all that malark. That's what makes coming home all worth it.

That and mam's cooking. That woman can roast a side of beef, that's for sure.










Kudos to those of you who spotted the Simpsons reference, by the way.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The objectivity of my affection

As journalists, we're taught that the ultimate goal we can achieve is objectivity; that non-judgemental, unbiased, moral pedestal, from which we can cast a haughty gaze down upon the world and proclaim, "I judge thee."

Nonsense. There's no such thing as objectivity, or, at least, this is what we're told by another portion of our lecturers. One even went so far as to say, "I think that the greatest thing journalists could do would be to admit their own subjectivity." Blast him, he's right, the smooth headed trickster.

We're too open to the world and its pressures. In an ideal environment, sure, we could say what we wanted (so long as we were fair and balanced in our dealings with both sides of the story), but that's just not the case. We're driven by commercial pressures, by "news values" which devalue every story we're given, by watered-down press releases, by the watchful eye of partisan editors and political elites, and most of all by the public, who expect us to tell them what they want to hear. Seems the only thing which qualifies a "proper journalist" these days is a left-wing whackjob.

It's disheartening, to say the least, to think that when I'm qualified, I'll be thrust into a position that ranks just above paedophiles, serial killers and Fianna Fáil politicians on the scale of public disgust (1 being "tut-tut", 10 being "tar and feather"). But something's gotta bring home the bacon, and I might as well be having an influence on people than anything else.

If we can't be objective, then at least we can try and be as fair as our upbringing allows us. Let's not assume that all travellers are rabid thieves, or that all Muslims are terrorists, or that all Israelis are cold, heartless murderers. That just ain't how the world rolls, people. Life's too complicated to be objective. It's impossible not to pick sides, even when it's just two ants fighting over a breadcrumb. Why, it's human nature to have preconceptions and misconceptions.

It still sickens me, though, that what should be an endless quest to provide the public with the truth behind the lies put forward by the political elite who allegedly control the world's media organs should be driven by cold, hard cash and nothing more. If only people gave a toss about current affairs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If there's one thing you can say about mankind, there's nothing kind about man

Ah, Tom Waits, you're a pet.

It's quite true, though. There's too much going on in the world that would destroy your faith in the human condition. It's better to keep those close to you even closer, and remind yourself what it is about them that makes you cling on to that last shred of hope that humans are actually decent people.

Ara, I'm showing my old age. This blog began a lot more misanthropic than I meant it to be, so I really should clarify matters.

I love the individual, because that's where you see the best of the human condition, namely the fact that each one of us are so different, yet totally similar.

Countless individuals have no doubt expressed the same sentiment with far better eloquence than I ever shall, so I'm going to quit while I'm ahead.

To be honest, I just wanted to use that lyric. It's fookin' massive.