HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO US
Barack Obama credentials as US president are often questioned, but one thing in no doubt is his skill as a public speaker. He's a fantastic orator and if he walked the walk like he talked the talk he would go down as one of the greatest presidents ever. This week it was us lucky Irish he was addressing with that silver tongue, or to be exact a select gathering in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast. He said all the right things and had the audience eating out of his hand, he even made a little joke about the 'craic', oh Barack you're such a card. And as soon as he'd finished the fawning began; it was as if Jesus himself had risen from the dead (again) and turned a pint of Guinness into a keg of the stuff.
How naive are we? Yes it's a good thing that Obama supports the peace process and hopes relations between the US and little ol' Ireland continue to prosper, but we don't need to sound so grateful. Chances are that speech was written for him by a member of his staff who specialises in such fare. I'm sure Barack gave it the once-over before he committed to airing it in front of thousands of people, but these missives are essentially empty rhetoric designed to please the easily pleased, ie; us. It was the same thing when it was discovered his ancestry could be traced back to Moneygall in County Offaly, we practically creamed ourselves. The same way we did when Tom Cruise announced something similar. It's embarrassing.
I might not agree with Clare Daly's assessment of Obama as a 'war criminal' but she was pretty much on point with everything else she said. Here we are the poor, thick Irish gazing lovingly up at our master just praying for a pat on the head, they respond in kind and we wag our tails appreciatively. I'm not saying we should make light of the Obamas visit but a little perspective is in order. A blow-by-blow account of Michelle and her daughter's holiday is not newsworthy, and it definitely doesn't warrant a front-page headline. But then you are reminded that this is the age of the celebrity. Who cares why they're famous? They're famous and that's all that matters. Never mind that her husband was here on important political business, she's going for lunch with Bono for fuck sake, there's your story right there!
TRIAL BY CAMERA
“Don't make a scene”, how many times have you heard that one? You're knee deep in the mother and father of all arguments but your main concern is avoiding embarrassment, save it 'til we get home then we can puck the heads off each other. Sadly Nigella was too busy choking to warn Charles about making a scene. And he made such a scene that they were plastered all over the papers the next day. Worse still he was brought in for questioning and ended up being formally cautioned by the police. Should have settled for a crafty kick in the shins pal, no one would have noticed (insert compulsory comment about not condoning domestic violence here).
But has this incident set a new precedent? We already know that celebs daren't break wind in public for fear of the media cottoning onto it but now it appears that the tabloids have cast themselves in the role of watchdogs. Hundreds of thousands of women suffer at the hands of abusive spouses but none are fortunate enough – or unfortunate depending on how you look at it – to have the act captured on camera. Instead they suffer in silence afraid to go to the authorities for fear of reprisals. If only they were famous and had the paparazzi tracking their every move. Then they could rest easy.
AN ALL TIME GREAT
There's nothing quite like a celebrity death to get the recreational griefers out in force. They take to the Internet in their droves all battling for supremacy; he meant the most to me, I'm the most affected by it, oh it's so sad. So sad in fact that you can do nothing but post banal drivel about the deceased instead of mourning their passing like a normal person. But occasionally even a cynical cunt like me has to hold his hands up and say “this is shocking and despite the fact I never met this person I am genuinely saddened by their passing.” And that's how I felt when I learned that, at the tender age of 51, James Gandolfini had breathed his last. But who was I mourning? James Gandolfini? Or Tony Soprano?
The answer is probably a bit of both. Actor and character are intrinsically linked and for the vast majority of people Gandolfini is Tony Soprano and always will be. I heard one commentator liken Gandolfini's passing as akin to Marlon Brando's for a certain generation. I'd go along with that, he was that good. So good that I'd have no hesitation in comparing him to any of the 'all-time greats'; Pacino, De Niro, Olivier, Nicholson, whomever you care to mention, Gandolfini was up there with the very best. But his legacy lies elsewhere. Before the Sopranos television drama was a rather tepid affair, you had the odd hit show here and there but everything paled in comparison to life on the big screen. Then David Chase's masterpiece came along and it changed the medium completely. High production values, incredible storytelling, magnificent acting, this was better than any film and best of all it was on every week. Look at TV drama now, we spend half our lives consuming our favourite shows and the other half recommending them to our friends. Top actors, huge budgets, massive audiences, it's big business. And none of it would have been possible without the Sopranos, and therefore none of it would have been possible without James Gandolfini.
I often wonder if Newcastle United were put on this earth for our amusement, and then I remember that no that's actually Liverpool. But them Geordies run them close. If it's not good ole Kev telling us he'd love it or obese blokes going topless in December then it's invariably something else. The most recent episode of insanity saw this massive (sic) club relegated to the Championship despite having the bestest fans in the whole world. Oh how we laughed at their plight, well I did anyway. But then they came back and instead of struggling like everyone expected them to they did quite well. So well in fact that they gave their manager an eight year contract. Hmm can you see where this is going?
They reverted to type last season and narrowly avoided relegation, so clearly what was needed was some reinforcements, someone to bolster the squad and help push the magpies up the table. What? What's that you say, a 20-goal a season centre forward? Nah let's get a senile old man and make him director of football, that'll sort it. Now I like Joe Kinnear and at one point I even hoped he might get the Ireland job. But that was a long time ago. He's had health problems since and as Fergie recently proved you should endeavour to get out of this game while you still can. But even though he apparently speaks to him every week it seems that Joe isn't going to follow Sir Alex's lead. Instead he's going to ensure that Newcastle remain everyone's favourite joke club and keep the tabloids happy from now until the start of the season. Aboy Joe.
Everyone hates exams, and if you say otherwise then you're either a weirdo or just too clever for your own good. All that memorising and rote learning, not for me thank you very much. Continuous assessment that's the way to go. But for now we're stuck with the old-fashioned way; entering a hall and regurgitating the stuff you've spent half the night reading and re-reading. Oh if only I had someone to go in and do the exam for me, like a really brainy mother for example. But although my mother is clever enough in her own right when it comes to exams I think I'd rather take my chances and go in myself.
But one French girl had more faith in her old mammy then I ever would. Such was her confidence in mother dearest that it was decided the elder of the two would sit herdaughter's exam on her behalf. She even went as far as kitting her out accordingly in Converse, jeans and lots of make-up, off ya go mammy they won't suspect a thing. Sadly this ingenuous ruse was quickly rumbled and the 52 year old, eager learner was escorted out of the building and straight to the nearest police station. Why the girl couldn't have opted for the traditional 'write your answers on your arm and cover it up with your sleeves' technique I'll never know. But they both now face prosecution with the likelihood being the daughter will never even get the opportunity to sit her exams. Quite the result I would have thought.