Archive for April, 2009

27
Apr
09

If you don’t like this post, please ignore it

Like many others in the Irish blogosphere, I received an e-mail today from a crowd calling themselves Reclaim Ireland. They’re seeking some publicity for their cause (something about the government being too focused on private gain) and asking us to publicise their website for them.

I have received similar requests in the past, and though I usually don’t respond I can at least appreciate that I was contacted personally. This one’s different as it’s the same blanket e-mail sent to several bloggers. Now it is flattering to be included on this list of the country’s most prolific bloggers, but spam is spam. I would have simply deleted it and forgotten it forever, but I was further annoyed by this tid-bit: “If you think the idea completely ridiculous, please ignore this email.”

As it happens, I don’t think the idea is ridiculous, but only because I can’t figure out exactly what the idea is (there is some talk on overthrowing the Government, but nothing on how exactly we go about it). What I resented was the attempt to influence editorial control of my blog. If I think it’s a ridiculous idea, I’ll ignore nothing. If I want I’ll bloody well say so.

This e-mail exemplifies the problem with the bulk of online commenters that has been spawned by the recession. They are utterly convinced of the responsibility of the government and the failures of the established political system (the subject of the e-mail was even “revolution”), yet they have such little faith in their alternative that they can’t bear to see it criticised. A solid political argument thrives on dissent, not pleas to be ignored. Alan Moloney posted something on this a while back.

I hate to sound so negative, and I realise cynicism is the easiest response, but I’m really annoyed by all this lazy “fuck the government” talk lately. I’m as angry as anyone, and I’m perfectly willing to listen to a real alternative. Until you figure out what that is, don’t let the door hit you or your revolution on the way out.

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20
Apr
09

Is it still worth trying?

Today’s “Media” supplement in the Guardian made for depressing reading. The splash was about graduate and trainee journalists, and how they’ve been left behind as this recession bites on newspapers (which, as we all know, have for years been on a downward spiral without need of an economic downturn).

I won’t repeat the article, it’s all hear, but I will agree that this is a loss not just to graduates but to the newspapers as well. A dynamic newsroom feeds from the energy of newcomers as well as the experience of the older journalists. I loved my brief spell at a national news-desk, and I particularly enjoyed the advice and guidance shown to me by one of our senior political writers, who seemed to take me under his wing.

As for what this mean for me personally, well, it might be best advised to give it up. It seems the death-notice for this industry has been long ago nailed to the door. Freelancing doesn’t cut it, I don’t think it ever did for an inexperienced journalist. Several well-meaning individuals have suggested I go for a change of career (PR as obviously been mentioned). However, I’m not letting go of the dream just yet. I’m a hack. I’ve been convinced for almost a decade now that this is my vocation, and it’s what I’ve worked for and committed myself to. I don’t think it’s time go give up on that just yet.

15
Apr
09

Why I hate dentists

I have previously written here about my issues with dentistry. Some have said this is irrational. However, yesterday every ill-feeling I hold towards dentists was validated. After months of returning to my local gob-doctor for a filling an then a cleaning and then another filling as another lump fell out of the tooth that was filled on the first day, I was sent to Cork to have two wisdom teeth removed. Actually, I was supposed to get only one removed, but when I got there I was told the one against might as be taken out as well, as it could cause trouble later without the other one to restrict it. I agreed, assuming he knew what he was talking about. But as he yanked at my jaw with what I think was a pliers, it seemed to me quite odd that a dentist would want to remove a tooth that was perfectly healthy.

As for the bad tooth, it was quite literally at a 45 degree angle in my gob. I had known this for about nine years, as the prick who gave me my first filling (and kick-started my distain for his profession) told me. He did advise me then to get it removed. Actually he wanted me to get all four wisdom teeth removed, and made an appointment for me for the guy in Cork. I didn’t go. Call me myopic, but didn’t want some quack pulling out parts of my body that weren’t really causing me any problems.

Well, this time around I was practically blackmailed into it. Apparently the bendy tooth has caused a cavity in the one next to it, any my dentist said he wouldn’t be able to fix it properly until the bendy tooth was removed. And so I found myself in Cork yesterday with this gobshite pulling at my jaw – similar to how a carpenter might pull out a bent nail, my chest serving as a handy work-shelf, and the nurse leaning on my shoulder the one leans against a bar. In addition to this, the machines he stuck in my mouth made the freakiest noises I could imagine. My dad has an electric wood-planer that makes the exact same noise.

And for what? I’m now fast becoming addicted to pain killers. My jaw has swelled up to Vito Corleone proportions, but only on one side; I look like Popeye. There’s a tingling sensation on the tip of my tongue that I’m starting to fear is permanent. On top of this, I’m being tormented by a rusty taste of dried blood in my mouth. All this to remove one tooth that was fine and another that as of Monday caused me no discomfort whatsoever. On reflection I’m lucky I ignored them nine year back. He might have taken away half my lower mandible. I just wish I had the nerve to ignore them this time. Ok, it’s all for my own good. In the long term I’ll thank them. But knowing this offers very limited comfort right now. I know I’m being unfair, but truly I hate dentists.

13
Apr
09

Is Paul Williams a PR agent for Limerick gangs?

I am regularly annoyed by the coverage of crime (or, indeed, anything) in the tabloids, and the Sunday World has always taken the biscuit in this regard. There’s something unpalatably celebratory about the way Paul Williams reports gang-crime in the paper, and in his numerous books on the subject. It’s portrayed as a sophisticated network of subversives and outlaws untouchable to the Gardaí and all decent people, as opposed to, say, a couple of families in Limerick and North Dublin who make make a bit of money from drugs and enjoy fighting each other and sending kids who would probably be better off at online schools to do their dirtywork and are ultimately not smart enough to realise murder doesn’t get them what they want. Not that I wish to seem dismissive of the problems with gangs in Ireland. The murder of Roy Collins is proof if proof were needed of the seriousness of the organised crime problem in this country. But hyperbole is not the solution. “Murder Inc”, as they call it, isn’t much more that a few scumbags trying to impress bigger but no less stupid scumbags. Paul Williams has made more money from these crimelords than they ever could.

So, as I say, I’ve always found this coverage annoying. Yesterday, however, it instilled in me a very different emotion: fear. Not so much fear of the gangs, but fear that these gangs are actually being strengthened by Williams and the Sunday World. The paper had several pieces on the murder of Roy Collins in Limerick last week, two written by Williams, that laid responsibility for the hit with “Murder Inc. boss” Wanye Dundon. There’s nothing peculiar here, as several media outlets suggested the same thing (even though the Sunday World somehow claimed it was an exclusive), but “the real Irish Sunday” does deserve credit for explicitly pointing out that it was by appearing as a witness against the now jailed Dundon that Roy’s nephew Ryan Lee eventually got his uncle killed. It surely doesn’t take a genius to realise that this kind of talk is going to make it harder for the DPP to convince others to testify against gang members. For this reason, yesterday’s Sunday World can be seen as a PR coup for the Dundons and their ilk.

This is made worse by a headline on page 12 which declares, “For the sake of your family don’t go near the court or there will be bloodshed.” It’s in quotation mark, so presumably they’re quoting one of their interviewees. Now if someone were to make a comment while researching the piece, it would be perfectly reasonable – however unfortunate – to include it in the article. But in the fucking headline? The gang bosses must have been delighted with that. It’s the kind of advertising they can normally only dream of. But even this is an aside, because when you read the article (assuming the average Sunday World reader makes it that far), it’s impossible to place the quote in any kind of context. It never appears in the body of the article and isn’t acknowledged anywhere. Basically, we have this bold statement that testifying against these people isn’t worth the risk, without any information on where it comes from.

In 2005 Robert McCartney was murdered in pub brawl by someone who just happened to be an IRA man. The case against his murderer fell apart because nobody in the pub that night was able to identify the killer. They were all in the jacks at the time. Amazingly, the entire crowd of this pub had somehow managed to fit into this Tardis of a pub toilet. Perhaps I’m being naïve, but I don’t think the Limerick gangs have the power to intimidate possible witnesses through reputation alone the way the Ra do. However, with the kind of coverage given to these gangs by the Sunday World, that seems like something we can’t rely on for too much longer.

08
Apr
09

The Unemployed Budget

Like everyone else, I was paying strict attention to the telly yesterday to see how we’d be affected by the budget. This was a funny one for the unemployed, as there was the possibility that Lenihan would listen to the likes of Goodbody Stockbrokers and actually cut social welfare payments to those of us on the dole (a line elegantly countered by Fintan O’Toole in yesterday’s IT). I recall a few articles in newspapers in the last few weeks that sought to highlight the burden each individual dole recipient places on the state, which read to me like the kind of line journalists pick up from PR people who are trying to condition public opinion. I got a real sense that we were being braced for something shocking.

So, people on social welfare might be tempted to breathe a sign of relief, as on the face of it at least we seem to have gotten away with it. After the medical card blunder of last “real” budget, Brian was a lot more nervous about been seen to attack social welfare recipients. There are no major cuts in social welfare, according to the three broadsheets this morning. This of course isn’t the full story, but more on that later. The most notable cut was the abolition of the double payment at Christmas time. This has lead to witty comparisons to Ebenezer Scrooge, but frankly, I find it hard to justify a difficulty with this. I for one was not entitled to the bonus last Christmas and I don’t think I would have been this year either, and I was expected to just get on with this. Of course it’s very easy for me to say this, considering I’m a singleton who doesn’t have to worry about paying for a family Christmas. And considering the as yet undisclosed impositions that are to be place on the children’s allowance, the oncoming holidays are sure to be a difficult one for families on social welfare. To this I can only say it was always going to hurt.

Far more unforgivable, in my opinion, is the halving of dole payments for people under 20 years of age, an incentive Brian says for people to take up training. This is a basic display of ageism in that it assumes universal parental support for young people, which is not always the case. Will extra Fas and PLC places be provided for every person under 20 on the dole? I very much think not. As far as I can see, the pain this will cause does not justify the money that’s likely to be saved, which according to the Irish Independent will be €300 million.

Also unfair is the cut in rent allowance. It’s not so much the cut that’s the problem but the reasoning for it. According to Lenihan’s speech this is merely in tune with the drop in rent prices, a remark quite similar to Goodbody’s Marie Antoinette-esque belief that a cut in social welfare is justified due to a drop in inflation. This supposed that those on social welfare noticed an corresponding drop in their expenses, conveniently forgetting that the inflation drop was fuelled by a general consumer race to the bottom. For people already at the bottom there is nowhere else to go. Well, the same is true for Brian and his perception of rent prices. Suzy has gone into more detail on this here.

Apart from cuts, there was another reason unemployed people were paying attention to this budget. We wanted to see what was being done to create jobs. I’m going to leave this for people more qualified than I to discuss in detail. However, I will say it seem there was precious little announced in this regard as far as I can tell. I suppose such measures were never a consideration for this “mini” budget. Nobody of course ever believed there would be anything about this budget that could be described as “mini”. The Indo had it right today with a supplement entitled “Crisis Budget”. It was just about plugging the hole in the public finances that FF created for themselves. Creating jobs will have to wait for another day.

04
Apr
09

Recession bloggers, no book deal for you

I was flicking through a copy of U magazine (dated March 16) that was lying around the house when I happened upon an interesting item on the last page, entitled “U get on my goat”. Basically it’s a list of things that annoyed some U writer during the week, and number one on the list is a good one: Recession Bloggers.

Now I realise us recession bloggers would be best served by ignoring this. After all, it’s U. Their cover story in the same issue is about newsreaders who are gorgeous (even though they apparently don’t have to be). This is not a world that reasonably intelligent people should have to concern themselves with. However, I found myself annoyed, and the more I thought about it the more annoyed I got. I think what got to me was the explanation for the entry

Your desperate hopes that your blog will be discovered and you’ll get paid millions for a book deal are very transparent.

I know this betrays a massive ego on my part, but as I’ve mentioned on several occasions here that I’m a writer by profession I couldn’t help but feel this was a comment made with me in mind. For what it’s worth, my reason for maintaining this blog is nothing other than for the sake of doing it. But this aside, I found the entry a bit self-important, especially considering the other things that got on U’s goat.

2. Buying fancy (and expensive) new shampoo and only realising you’re allergic to it after using it all week.

No recession ‘round here.

4. Owing a Labrador now that Marley and Me is out. You didn’t believe the crazy dog stories before but now that the movie is out you think you know all about it.

Well excuse me! When choosing a dog, one should of course consider that an American journalist might someday write a memoir based on his ownership of that same breed, which will then be adapted into a very successful yet highly schmalsy film, leading to an increased interest in these dog which in turn will lead celebrity lifestyle magazines to declare owning them to be soooo last century. What were we thinking? As the proud owner of a Lab, whose antics have on occasional been mentioned here, this further enforced the notion that I inspired this article.

6. Nearly fainting in yoga. All the bendy, ‘we go four times a week people’ (sic) are staring and judging.

Now this I can empathise with. It isn’t pleasant being judged by smug, uppity pricks.

If you’re going to launch of sweeping critique on any group of people, you should probably ask yourself if you really have the Dylan Moran/Charlie Brooker style of wit to carry it through. Because if you go on to moan about shampoo and yoga and mineral make-up that spills in your bag and ruins the lining (which is a little indicative of the kind of attitude that largely caused this recession to begin with) then you’ll probably end up looking like haughty, self-satisfied gits with more money than sense. The last entry in this article might as well have been “Picky proles who won’t eat their cake”. I realise I’m making a big deal of what is a fluff piece that’s only there to fill a page, but bad writing is bad writing, and particularly galling when criticising others for theirs.

PS, I was going to title this post “Fuck U, too”, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.