Sunday, October 20, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.

Salt in the wounds

I was going to talk about the Budget this week. I was going to talk about the drastic cuts to social welfare for those aged 25 and under. I was going to talk about the thousands of old-age pensioners who will have their medical cards taken away. And I was going to talk about how thankless a task it is for Michael Noonan to implement these measures without alienating virtually every section of society. But at this stage, just a few days after the budget cuts were announced, I think we're all sick to the back teeth of talking about it.

It started about two weeks ago; the financial experts and economists were drafted in for their views on how we were to claw back some of our debt this year. And as the day drew ever closer more and more air time was allocated to these analysts and gurus. This isn't so much of a problem if you're tuning into the six one news for your daily bulletin, but when you like to have the radio on as background noise at all times and your station of choice is Newstalk....don't even get me started. It's bad enough waiting to hear who'll be hit hardest without round the clock scaremongering from one of the country's most reputable news outlets.

On budget day itself I shied away from all forms of media, my reasoning being that it was better to receive the bad news in one unhealthy dollop rather than subject myself to death by a thousand cuts as each reduction was announced. By the end of that evening I had digested the news and stopped to ponder what it would mean for me and those closest to me. And yet the next morning as I still processed this information I had it all thrown back in my face again. We'd had two weeks of build up, minute-by-minute updates and now it seemed we were going to be subjected to some post-match analysis. On and on they droned, drafting in the views of those most affected to embellish their points. It was relentless, and ultimately soul-destroying.

And it continued into the next day, the same thing over and over again. No fresh angles, just wall-to-wall misery. Luckily by the grace of God the weekend came to interrupt them or we would never have escaped. I'm all for hard-hitting news items which dissect the issues of the day but does anyone else feel like this is overkill? We know the country is fucked, we know we're all broke and we know what the outcome of the budget was: don't keep going on about it! Maybe I'm part of the problem, a typical Irish person who would rather bury their hand in the sand than address the topic. But I'm also a realist, and I realise that sitting around talking about things isn't going to help. All it will do is heap further misery upon an already disconsolate nation.

Everyone's a winner baby

Are any of you talented enough to have a segment of your parent's living-room dedicated to your exploits? You know the kind of thing I'm talking about, that glass cabinet filled with cheap, plastic trophies. These trinkets might not have possess much fiscal value but to your Mammy they're worth more than the Champion's League trophy itself. I was never that talented: the sum total of my achievements can be seen in the two runners-up plaques I received for being a member of the losing finalists in the local seven-a-side tournament. But boy do I cherish them feckin' plaques.

In a few years time every mother will have one of those glass cabinets. It won't matter that their offspring is a drooling troglodyte incapable of putting one foot in front of the other without falling on their stupid face – they'll still bring home armfuls of bounty on a weekly basis. How come? Because nowadays you get a medal for everything! Run a marathon - finish four weeks after everyone else: here's a medal. Enter a spelling bee - get T-H-E wrong: here's a medal. Go to soccer camp - spend two weeks wandering along the touchline picking your nose: here take this trophy, you've earned it.

What's the point in handing out awards if you're going to give one to everyone? “And the winner of this year's Oscar for best picture........every single film made in the past twelve months.” Disappointment and failure are all part of life, without them we can never fulfill our potential. I'm not sure what potential there is within Tahitian football but judging by the points system in their domestic football league I doubt it will ever be unlocked. Their 'Super League' offers four points for a win, two for a draw and one for a defeat, so you can get hammered 24-0 and still say “ah we got a hard-earned point today lads, keeps us moving up the table.”

Best, or worst depending your viewpoint, of all is the reasoning behind this system. The director of the Tahitian FA explains it by saying “We just don’t want anyone to be sad. With this system, even if a team loses every game, they won’t be on zero points at the end of the season.” But why stop there? Why not dispense with the points system altogether? And goals for that matter. Just let the lads run around for an hour and a half and then when it's all over give them each a big cuddle and a trophy saying 'You're the bestest, most loveliest man in the world.' You might not have a very competitive league, but the players will be the happiest, most upbeat footballers in the world.

War of words

When I was a young, desperate Leaving Cert student I often came up with ingenious ways to pad out my Irish exam papers. Or my German ones for that matter. I'd sit there frantically trying to remember what the Irish for 'potato' was - but to no avail, I was screwed. Unless....unless....I couldn't.....could I? Feck it I will. And in it went, the German for potato 'kartoffeln.' No I hadn't lost my senses, far from it. My reasoning was that the examiner would see my error and take pity on me, “ah the poor lad is after getting mixed up, he's probably doing so much studying that he can't tell right from wrong.” One look at my Leaving Cert results will tell you that I was afforded no such sympathy. And that was just the written exam, I'll spare you the details of the orals.

We've all heard the stories of youngsters today peppering their school assignments with 'innits', 'y'knows' and 'gr8s' and wondered how on earth their teacher's put up with it. But these kids are simply transferring their own language to the page. So how do you stop this practise? By outlawing text speak in schoolwork? It's been done to death, it's time to take things to the next level. A school in London has done just that. They have banned the use of ten terms or phrases on school premises. No longer can a student begin a sentence with the word 'basically', nor can they end one with 'yeah', and under no circumstances can the words 'innit', 'aint' or 'coz' be included in between.

How brilliant would it be to visit this school? Scores of children conversing in the Queen's English while on the school's premises and then turning into semi-literate, faux gangstas as soon as they're out the gate. Will it help improve their vocabulary? Perhaps. But as commendable as the actions of Harris Academy Upper Norwood are, they are in essence fighting a losing battle. Because a couple of hundred years from now mankind will have come full circle, years of shortening words and inventing acronyms will have taken its toll, and he will communicate with his fellow creatures by simply grunting and gesturing. I blame internetz innit, lol.

 Ace Rihanna, Twitter Detective

My knowledge of pop music and those who peddle it is limited. Rihanna? She sang a song about an umbrella and got a hiding off her boyfriend – that's all I got. But twice in the past month I've had to cause to take note of the Barbadian (I had to look that up) songstress' actions. First an Instagram photo she posted of herself with a Slow Loris (Google it, they're cute) led to the arrest of two men for illegal possession of a protected animal. And now a tweet about the goings on at a sex show have led to the arrest of a Thai man for hosting such an event without a permit. Obviously Rihanna didn't realise her actions would have such consequences, but this is just another example of the power of the celebrity.

And this got me thinking. All of those no-mark, wastrels who have someone conned their way into the public psyche, why don't they give a little something back? One tweet from an X-Factor hopeful describing the funny whiff coming from the kitchen of their local kebab house, and a couple of minutes later the place is awash with Health & Safety inspectors. Miley Cyrus, how many followers has she on Twitter? Probably about nine million. She should be out fighting crime instead of posting pics of her skinny little arse. Real-life superheroes meting out justice via their social networking accounts: this is what society needs. It's the least these fuckers can do having inflicted their shite music/reality TV/awkward dance routines on the poor, hapless general public.

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