Friday, 30 March 2012

Conor visits Limerick Student Race Day. Conor gives a frank assessment.

I saw things like this at Limerick Student Race Day

I don't like horse racing. At all. It never appealed to me. Especially the betting side. I could see perhaps why people might fancy a flutter on a football match or a golf tournament but I could never understand what compelled people to risk money on animals. Animals are inconsistent, unpredictable and unkempt. Nevertheless, I decided to go along to the Limerick student race day. In the end, it was not the passive and docile horses that bugged me, it was the buffoonish and irritating students.

We took a bus to the racecourse and almost immediately I caught the whiff of irritation. Something told me that this would not be like a race-day, that it would be more akin to a giant nightclub. The bus journey was mercifully short and I was at this stage in high spirits as the racecourse is situated in a beautiful part of Limerick county that is distinctly rural but also close enough to the city that Thomond Park and St. John's Cathedral were visible. My brief merriment was interrupted however by people. Huh, people. You know those self-righteous blobs of meat that inhabit most parts of this Earth? Yeah them.

As I entered the racecourse proper it struck me that my preceding assessment of Limerick Student Race Day, sponsored by every idiot's favourite radio station SPIN South-West, was correct; it was, for all intents and purposes one big nightclub. The girls clambered around half-drunk, half encumbered by their impossibly high heels and the boys attempted to outdo each other in a game played by most men on nights out: "Let's see who can be the biggest macho dickhead?" Putrid, generic chart music blared through piercing speakers, the price of alcohol was exorbitantly high and a strong stench of fake tan pervaded through the air. One. Big. Nightclub. 

The event centre by the side of the racecourse is quite an impressive sight however. It's very imposing and thankfully navigable. It was half-empty at first so I had time and space to inspect the premises. What struck me most was the extravagantly priced food. A tenner for chicken curry and rice. €11.25 for a vegetarian stir-fry. €2.50 for a 99 cone. I had €7.50 in my pocket. I eventually plumped for a garlic cheese chips from Supermacs and a 99 cone. My vegetarianism inhibits me from any real choice.

As I moved along to the stands outside the event centre I was immediately taken aback by the view that awaited me. The racecourse itself is very impressive, incredibly long and superbly green. The stands were only peppered with people so I was free to enjoy every view the stands had to offer. As I walked back inside more and more people were shuffling into the event centre and ruining the serene and calm atmosphere that had permeated the event centre. The bars filled quicker than a saucepan on a rainy day and the cash registers jingled almost in rhythm with the click-clacking of the girls' high-heel shoes. 

Now I was out of my comfort zone. Now I had to find someone. I spent the next few hours bouncing between different groups of friends and chatting with people. The horse-racing was a mere sideshow and for maybe an hour or two I was actually enjoying myself. Good company in any environment is enjoyable. Eventually I lost everyone and found it increasingly difficult to navigate through a voluminous crowd teeming with drunken idiots. There are those drunk lads who find it hilarious to shout nonsensical insults in your face. Then there are the equally intoxicated girls who want you to be their "friend for the day". Then there's those people who still think the "Alan-Steve" joke is funny. It's not. It's old, so, so old. 

I can tolerate drunken idiots though. I'm used to it. What I can't handle is toilets that would be considered a bit too dirty in Auschwitz. They were cramped, brimming with people, fetid and a strange black liquid sat on the floors. The boys' toilets were quickly invaded by cackling girls. The queue for the girl's toilets was almost as disgusting as the conditions granted, but does that really give girls the right to enter a boys' toilet? Especially since a lot of the girls in the female loo were merely rectifying their make-up and not actually making use of the latrine facilities. I soldiered on admirably though. Well, admirably in my mind.

For the last hour so I undertook some improvised ethnography or creeping as it's more commonly known. That is to say that I studied the environment in which these students had created, observed their behaviour and the way they looked. I meticulously studied the attire worn by the students. The boys by and large were woefully uninspiring. Shirt, tie, suit pants and possibly a pair of Penney's sunglasses. I would estimate that around 90% of the boys present stuck to that dress code. Some of their ties didn't match their shirts, sometimes they donned a pair of runners instead of proper, dapper shoes and it was very rare that I actually saw a suit jacket. The best-dressed man I did see was actually my house mate Rory who wore an exquisite white shirt, lovely pointy shoes, grey suit pants and finished off the look with black suspenders. Lads take note, suspenders are timeless and classy.

The girls however actually made a proper concerted effort. Some of the dresses were amazingly colourful which is always good and though high-heels are incredibly annoying for any man having to accompany a drunken lady, they do ooze classiness. Some of the high-heels on show were very bright and flashy though the old reliable black and red were the most popular colours. 

The only complaint I would have is that an inordinate amount of the girls, and I believe this is the technical term, "fucked up" their fake tan. I would never advise the wearing of fake tan anyway. It's horribly disingenuous. So many girls profess through Facebook a hatred for girls whom they perceive are "fake", so why then do they wear FAKE tan? But if you do insist on wearing it make sure that it doesn't look like there is lines of shit seeping down your leg. It's not an attractive look and it's very noticeable. 

I did actually catch a glimpse of some of the races. The standard would be poor enough I was told on numerous occasions before coming and indeed those forecasts would be proved correct. I'm no horse-racing expert but even I could see the horses on show were miles slower than the horses I occasionally see whizzing by on RTE news. The race itself is quite nondescript, that is until they enter the final few furlongs. The crowd stand upright and cock their ears for the commentary and sharpen their gaze for the final stretch. As the horses near the finish line a massive cheer awaits them and as soon as the first one passes the line, pockets of celebration and jubilation break out. I assume those people had money on the winning horse and were not merely happy for the horse in winning the race.

As the clock ticked 7.30pm it was time to leave and I was left to reflect on a day of irritation and sporadic pleasure. My friends are great, other people aren't. What a wonderfully cynical and narrow-minded view. In actual conclusion, don't go to the Limerick Student Race Day, or any student race day for that matter unless you are A) Drunk. B) Betting. C) Both.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Becoming a vegetarian in college.

This picture was put in for irony

It wasn’t well thought out or painstakingly debated. I didn’t assiduously draw up a list of pros and cons nor did I consult my parents or my friends. One day last month, I impulsively decided to become a vegetarian. Right there on the spot. With no thought given to the overreaching consequences or dietary alterations. It was so frivolous, so flippant almost, the way I decided to forgo the consumption of meat for the rest of my days. And to tell you the bloody truth, it’s been one of the easiest decisions to stick to in my life.
I never was a big meat eater anyway. My dalliances with animal carcass were reserved to the odd Meatball Marinara from Subway or hot chicken roll from Spar. When cooking in college I never prepared meat. This was partly because I just didn’t overly enjoy it but also because I ain’t much of a cook and I like to make meals where there’s less probability of messing up. Spuds, cheese and beans, can’t go wrong there.  So quitting the meat was never going to be particularly hard right? Right. Once you get over the first 24 hours it is a doddle. I’ll admit, the first time I strolled through Red Raisins in UL and passed by my former lover Subway I did feel an urge. It was only slight but it was there, pinching my stomach and my taste glands. You soon realise however that abstinence from meat can be very beneficial to your college life and more pertinently, in these frugal times, beneficial to your bank account.
It wouldn’t be so simple for some people. Yes, many of my carnivorous friends have marvelled at the ease in which I’ve undertaken vegetarianism and explained how they wouldn’t be able to live without meat “in a million years”. Their words, not mine. The benefits of vegetarianism are endless however and aren’t just reserved to mere financial boons. Health-wise, vegetarianism wins too. A recent study by Harvard University claims that eating red meat daily increases the risk of dying young by up to 20%. Makes you think about devouring your next Tesco Finest lamb chop, doesn’t it? As for red meat being a viable source of protein and iron, nuts and baked beans are almost bursting at the seams with protein and green vegetables are chockfull of iron. There is always a substitute.
I don’t think I’ve addressed the main benefit in converting to vegetarianism yet though. No it isn’t the health benefits, it isn’t the financial savings in these impecunious times and no, it isn’t even the knowledge that you’re sparing the lives of countless lovely little chickys and piggies and calves. Nope. The main benefit in abjuring meat is being able to absolutely, conclusively and gloriously lord it over every one of your meat-eating friends. It’s become one of my favourite past times, up there with creeping on Facebook and mocking people who are members of Fine Gael. It’s probably the main reason I’ve found converting to meat-free meals so easy, the satisfaction you get from being a condescending arsehole towards your friends.
One of my favourite quotes to use to properly guilt-trip the macabre carnivores is a Buddhist one. “If you put death into your body you will emit death”. Charming. It implies that not only is a carnivore an arsehole for eating meat but that they are also simply an arsehole in general. Emitting death from one’s body is indeed a harrowing thought. Nice to make the carnivores feel loved. There is one caveat however. To truly reap the benefits of said glorious condescension, one must simply be a pescetarian. A pescetarian is someone who eats seafood but does not eat any other types of animal flesh. They have been colloquially referred to as “fake vegetarians”. If you are a pescetarian, carnivores will use this as evidence as how you are not a “real” vegetarian. They would be partially correct. So I would advise that you would absolve from the consumption of seafood also. If not for the bragging rights then for the horrible taste and squidgy texture of seafood.
Maybe my last couple of paragraphs were a bit too flippant and jocular. I mean, it’s been easy for me to give up meat but I’d imagine it would be a much more laborious undertaking for a lot more people. Please consider it though. It’s like how Father Ted described giving up cigarettes. “Once you get over the first 24 hours, it’s a doddle”. Ted of course, failed miserably to kick the smoking habit but I assure you meat is different. It ain’t a drug after all.

Monday, 26 March 2012

True happiness is....

We all live our lives in the pursuit of happiness. It is not merely an ideal espoused by the American constitution but an innate human impulse. Every action we undertake, every sentence we utter, we do so with the subtle intention of somehow, no matter how miniscule, improving our lives and bettering our chances of happiness. Happiness is an abstract concept however and cannot be measured and people’s ideas of it differ. We all crave some sort of happiness though and we as a society construct our collective lives in a way that apparently guarantees happiness on a regular basis. Let’s call them predisposed moments of happiness

Weekends are an example of predisposed happiness, birthdays are another. These are times that we are meant to spend jovially. The problem is, happiness doesn’t have a chronological timetable it works by. You can’t guarantee happiness on any given day. This is where natural highs come into play.

Natural highs, or natural instances of happiness as they may more accurately be described, are sudden and spontaneous waves of happiness, fuelled by no obviously tangible source, that can engender feelings similar to those one taking mood-enhancing drugs may experience. They are quite beautiful things. We don’t live our lives in pursuit of natural highs, many human beings are ignorant of their power or even their existence and we can’t predict when they’ll rear their charming little head. One thing that is certain is that they beat moments of predisposed happiness.

Spontaneous moments of happiness cannot be controlled and they thrive in any environment. Predisposed moments of happiness have a rigid structure – “You start being happy AT THIS TIME and you stop being happy AT THIS TIME.” It doesn’t really give you much of a chance. It implies that if you are not happy during this time period, you’re doing something terribly wrong. Birthdays are a perfect example of this.

On your birthday you’re supposedly meant to maintain a mirthful demeanour throughout the day as you celebrate the anniversary of the day you alighted from your mother’s womb. But what if you feel like shit on your birthday? What if it’s just a horrible day? Say your beloved dog chases a pesky mouse out onto a bohereen on the day of your birthday and is poleaxed by a vicious car. Your birthday is ruined. Your predisposed, calculated moment of happiness eviscerated and you won’t have a second go at it for 12 months.

Natural highs are more flexible and welcoming. They tend to happen in the most banal and uninspiring of locations. Running is known to induce them, as are orgasms but sometimes no discernible reason can be given for them.

Out of seemingly nowhere a burst of enthusiasm collides with your cerebellum. You feel no regret or remorse regarding any past misdemeanours or failings, no matter how recent. The future, no matter how far away, seems distant and alien. All you know to exist is what is now. You feel a surge of freedom pulsate through your body that flows through and liberates each and every one of your muscles. Any challenge, no matter how apparently insurmountable or daunting seems achievable. Interaction with your fellow human beings is made elementary thanks chiefly to the newly formed confidence coursing through your veins. The world is not just your oyster, the world is your bitch. You control it and everything in it. Everything is clear and the troubles or quandaries that once blighted you seem wonderfully irrelevant.

Moments like these foster marvellous creativity and help fecundity prosper. Your brain, surged by impromptu happiness helps, in an almost prosaic fashion, churn out glorious products of intellect and glamour. You seem to be able to write any article, finish any essay, compose any poem and create any song in these moments. And yet we ignore them. But that is the beauty of them we are supposed to ignore them. For if we don’t ignore them and vapidly anticipate them they merely become moments of monotonous predisposed happiness. And that is just downright boring, innit? 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Homosexuality in Ireland - The final taboo?

In 21st century Ireland, we like to pride ourselves on our modern, accepting and equal society. Gone are the archaic prejudices of the past where individuality was suppressed and uniformity prospered. Anyone of any faith, of any gender and of any belief can enjoy an unobtrusive existence in our utopian society. At least, that’s what we like to think. For though our horizons have broadened and our society has become more welcoming to people who deviate from the norm, there is a final taboo that lingers – homosexuality.

It must be noted at first that a lot of progress has been made in Ireland in the past 20 years with regards to homosexuality. Indeed, up until 1993 it was illegal to be a homosexual. And while legislatively at least Ireland has become increasingly liberal towards homosexuality, discrimination and prejudice remains.

A recent poll on showed that 69% of Irish people have witnessed incidents of homophobia in Ireland and just under half of these people see it on a regular basis. Homophobic bullying is becoming increasingly prevalent with co-founder of BeLong To, an organisation for young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Michael Barron, referring to it as an issue of “huge urgency”.

A 2009 survey by the Children’s Research Centre in Trinity College seems to echo Barron’s concerns. It showed that a jaw-dropping 50% of LGBT people under 25 had considered ending their own lives and that 20% had attempted suicide.
What these harrowing statistics show is that for all our pretentious and vainglorious talk of a so-called “modern society”, a portion of our population still face discrimination on a regular basis.

To learn more about the LGBT community face in 21st Century Ireland, I spoke to Kate, a student in the University of Limerick from Waterford. Kate said that her friends were very understanding when she told them that she was a lesbian but that it “took almost a year to tell the parents”.

“It’s still a taboo subject and you wouldn’t tell your grandparents, I suppose”, Kate claimed. “I’d imagine it would be difficult if you lived in a small village or somewhere like that”.

Kate claims that she has never faced any homophobic bullying, possibly, she claims, down to the fact that she isn’t “stereotypically lesbian”.

Kate seems happy in her own skin and confident in her sexuality. When talking to Kate, I got a sense of the strides we have made in the past 20 years but also the obstacles we have to overcome. She told me that show knows of people who have been subjected to homophobic bullying and that that may be down to the fact that those people are openly active in the LGBT movement. That’s it there for me. It’s ok to be gay as long as you hide it, that’s what that tells me. It tells me that people who conform to the gay stereotype are more likely to face abuse.

The way forward is to get people talking, to get the issue out in the open. When discrimination is subtle it is at its most potent. One of the most significant developments in Irish LGBT culture in recent times was the “coming-out” of Cork hurling star Dónal Óg Cusack. Cusack’s announcement was met with widespread commendation as he was the first GAA player in history to openly admit that he was gay.

The significance of Dónal Óg’s brave disclosure cannot be overstated. Dónal Óg is a well-respected and decorated hurler with three All-Irelands and two All-Stars in his back-pocket. He is a role model. It showed young people, and in particular young boys, that being gay is not a life choice. You are who you are. It also confounded the heterosexual stereotype of an Irish sportsman and will hopefully make it easier for players to come out to their team mates in the future.

Dónal Óg has been heavily involved with BeLong To and in particular their initiative ‘Stand Up! National Awareness Week Against Homophobic Bullying’. It’s organisations like this that can truly make a difference in young LGBT people’s lives. Indeed, BeLong To can count a Hollywood superstar among their listen of patrons. ‘Stand Up!’ has been resoundingly endorsed by actor and Dublin native Colin Farrell, whose own brother is gay.

Farrell had this to say, ““Whether it be the attacking of Gay students, which I witnessed first-hand happening to my own brother, or students who are in the minority as a result of race or religious beliefs or any other such characteristic that separates them from 'the norm', it is all wrong and has no place in a just and compassionate country such as I know Ireland to be.”

When I asked Kate about Farrell’s comments and Dónal Óg Cusack’s situation, she praised both men and said, “I think it’s great. When very influential people show support, people back off”.

Great progress has been made against homophobia in the recent years and we as a nation can be proud that we have come so far in such a short space of time. But the fight is not over. Homophobia is still a gargantuan problem and one that refuses to go away quietly. As the study by Trinity College shows, homophobia can claim lives. And as long as it still does we cannot simply brush it under the carpet. 

Monday, 12 March 2012

Being bald and evil help Putin in his return to the Kremlin. Especially the bald bit.

Putin likes peace. He also likes atomic bombs and puppies.

If only the American presidential election could be so simple, eh? Vladimir Putin’s victory in the Russian presidential election surprised the grand sum of nobody and indeed, why should it? Putin’s ascendancy from Prime Minister back to the comfy confines of his beloved presidential office was never in question, thanks in no doubt to the bald-hairy theory.

Yes, forget the fact that the vast bulk of the Russian media are under Putin’s control, forget the blanket coverage Putin’s election campaign and rallies received and also forget all those nasty allegations regarding election fraud. The bald-hairy theory was what won it for dear old Vladimir.

This theory states that for each leader of Russia that has a hairy head, a bald leader will follow him and vice-versa. The theory is yet to be disproven. After the inordinately bald Lenin, came the luscious, combed moptop of Stalin, complete with hairbrush moustache. After horrible Josef came the bald Khrushchev and following him, came the hairy Brezhnev and so on.

This trend has remained unbroken right to this very day and it is the single greatest factor in baldy Putin replacing hairy Medvedev. No sour grapes now Zyuganov, Mironov or Zhironovsky, were one of you lot less follically endowed than dear old Vladimir it could have been you sipping tea and relaxing on a comfy leather sofa in the Kremlin and not Russia’s favourite tiger tamer.

Of course, the truth surrounding Putin’s victory is a lot less jovial and trivial than I have described. His ascension to president was never in question but the election is still shrouded in mystery. Us here in the West have been quite quick to cast aspersions on the character of Vladimir Putin and the validity of his win and this comes as no surprise.
 Russia and, more pertinently, Putin intimidate the West. Even though over twenty years have passed since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, an uneasy tension pervades through Russo-Occidental relations.

And it all started so well. In the infant stages of dear old Vladimir’s first term, relations between Russia and the West could not have been better. After 9/11, the affable Vlad publicly backed America’s War on Terror and was the first head of state to ring George W. Bush and offer his condolences for the September 11 attacks.

After this incipient congeniality came a more cold and uneasy relationship. America withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, an agreement formed between the US and the Soviet Union in 1972 to limit the amount of nuclear weapons at the disposal of both countries. This action was not welcomed by Putin and his indirect riposte was to refuse to support America’s invasion of Iraq. Dear old Vladimir has risked the ire of the West again in recent years with frequent indiscretions such as the poisoning of former spy Alexander Litvinenko and the 2008 invasion of Georgia.

So should we all be grasping our shovels and hurriedly constructing our Anderson shelters now that dear old Vladimir has returned to power? Will the 21st century experience a Cold War? Not likely. No matter how strenuous relations between the former Soviet state and the West get, neither side want a repeat of the eerie yet ultimately frivolous Cold War. America have bigger fish to fry anyway what with tensions between Israel and Iran reaching boiling point and a presidential election of their own.

I don’t like dear old Vladimir even if I have blessed him with a funny (well, in my head) nickname. I don’t like America’s government much either. They don’t like each other. Though to be frank, there’s about as much chance as me launching a nuclear strike against America as there is Russia doing so. The West should not worry. Putin is not a threat. Putin faces waves of opposition and protests at home as it is and if revolutionary 2011 taught us anything it is real change comes from within. 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Lodge Nightclub - I review it.

Stumbling through a wooden box on a brisk Thursday night, dodging drunk, cascading bodies and avoiding ponds of sick. Where do you find yourself? Why UL’s favourite nightclub the Lodge of course! The Lodge is to nightclubs what Razor Ruddock was to footballers – inherently shit but loved for some abstract, innate reason.

To express just how shit the Lodge really is, you only need take into account its saving feature. What draws people, in their hoards, to the Lodge? Is it the ‘craic’ that is to be had there? Negative. Is it the economically priced alcohol available in the Lodge? Nein.  The Hurlers is much cheaper. Is it the marvellous music played there? Oh, Christ no. No, the Lodge’s redeeming feature, its saving grace, its compensation for what otherwise will be a terrible night out is its proximity to UL. Students are lazy. Drunk students are even lazier. Money wasted on taxis could so easily be spent on the more alluring product of alcohol. A 15 minute walk and you’re at the front entrance to the Lodge ready to suspend reality and act the maggot for a few hours.

Let’s get down to the actual Lodge ‘experience’. Firstly, it does not look like a nightclub; I doubt it was built with the intention of one day housing 400 intoxicated students. To me, it resembles a den which middle-aged men would retreat to after a vivacious day of golf. The wooden interior, the multiple fireplaces, the (comparatively) comfortable seating areas. Look at that relatively small dance-floor and tell me you can’t picture a gaggle of men sitting around in leather sofas, sipping scotch and discussing something mundane like stock prices. It just has that feel. Of course, the classiness of a golf den is lost once you exile your imagination. Watching a first year girl vomit on another first year girl will probably do that to you.

The music is terrible. I’m quite the music snob I must admit. If it’s new, if it’s hip and if it’s in the charts, I probably won’t like it. My taste is very Rock orientated and the DJ in the Lodge (or ANY mainstream nightclub for that matter) is no fan of Rock and/or Roll. I do like some chart stuff but the Lodge don’t play them. They prefer to play Rihanna at least 10 times a night, Chris Brown and whatever god-awful rapper he’s collaborating with this time another few times and of course, the college 2k12 favourite Levels by Avicii another 3 times. I didn’t mind Levels at first, I didn’t like it but compared to some of the electronic bile I’m subjected to on a daily basis on the radio it was quite alright. After hearing it 3000 times and having to listen to every single drunk teenager wax lyrical about it for the past three months, I’m less keen on it. This one time, the Lodge played Arctic Monkeys. I almost collapsed with happiness. For a short period afterwards, the Lodge became my favourite nightclub. It’s not a very illustrious title however; asking me what my favourite nightclub is, is a bit like asking Adolf Hitler who’s his favourite Jew.

I may be at a disadvantage when assessing the Lodge ‘experience’ due to my self-imposed abstinence from alcohol (I don’t drink bah). Were one to be inebriated and as such oblivious to the terrible music and the Lodge’s many, many faults it might be quite the enjoyable experience. Might. If like me however, you are teetotal or simply don’t drink that much I’d recommend you sit down on the sofa for the night with a good book and a cuppa. You might not get the shift, but you won’t get vomit on your clothes either.


Friday, 9 March 2012

Take Me Out - How much will I hate it?

I ain't usually a fan of self-torture. No, it isn't one of my more quotidian activities. I usually like to spend my Friday evenings draped on a sofa, a mug of tea in one hand, my laptop sat on my lap and an edifying article or two to read. This Friday was different however. For the sole purpose to provide me with an opportunity to write an article and update my blog, I decided to engage in a bit of self-torture and  watch an episode of TV3's infamous, smash-hit Take Me Out and critically review it. Even before the abhorrent theme music had ended, I was already missing my edifying articles.

I had made a concerted effort in steering clear of Take Me Out before this evening. It was never going to tickle my fancy was Take Me Out. The bits and pieces I had seen of it lead me to the conclusion that it was a brain-sapping piece of sexist bile. Sexist, in different ways, against both sexes, which is quite an achievement. The host, Ray Foley, never appealed to me, I felt the concept was dry and unoriginal and the girls came across as nonsensically picky. Though I fostered much ambivalence towards the show, I tried my utmost to remain impartial and objective throughout viewing it. This was by far the most difficult part.

You know the premise of the show, I don't need to explain it. Fella walks out, tries to impress a coterie of extravagantly dressed ladies while Ray Foley provides some gentle nudging and apparent comic relief. 

The first man to alight from backstage was the lanky, gangly yet undeniably attractive Dominic. He was a hit and only two girls turned off their lights as he strolled down the runway. "Lucky Dominic", I mused to myself, "He's getting the ride tonight". As the Take Me Out process developed, the numbers interested in Dominic naturally dwindled. His "Flirty for thirty" segment was quite anodyne and unlikely to dissuade potential suitors. There was a noticeable decline in the amount of numbers interested in him when he mentioned that he enjoyed Go-Karting. This perplexed me. What do women have against Go-Karting?Is there a female vendetta against Go-Karting? At what point in the dating process does one come to the conclusion that men who go-kart are pricks and unattractive? 

You see this is what truly amazed me about Take Me Out. It had nothing to do with whether the man acquires a female in the end, nobody really cares about that, it's the nonsensical process. Do these women have the right to be so damn choosy? Besides the go-karting fiasco, I saw men rejected for reasons as absurd as "being active", jokingly suggesting that if he were to wangle a bird that he would take her on tandem bike journeys (It was excruciatingly obvious that he was joking by the bide) and even more bewilderingly, the fourth male hopeful, Chris, saw his number of interested ladies dramatically fall after he stated "I like enjoying myself". Seriously, a hail of klaxons sounded as soon as the final syllable left his mouth. Astonishing. And not in a good way.

One girl, her name was Beth I believe was quite the choosy princess tonight. When the increasingly annoying Foley inquired as to why she rejected our third lamb for the slaughter Shane, she nonchalantly replied "I'm not going to move my hips for him". Her persnickety attitude would only be understandable if she was a pulchritudinous creature with the eyes of Cheryl Cole, the smile of Scarlett Johansson, the lips of Angelina Jolie and the tits of Georgia Salpa. Alas, Beth had a face that look likes a bulldog licking piss off a nettle. Don't touch that light Beth. Keep it on and pray that a fella not so visually endowed comes on the show.

The show is incredibly and intrinsically seedy. It's chock full of sexual innuendos, some subtle, some obvious, very few actually funny. For instance when our Shane was likened to Harry Potter by one of the girls, albeit an "extra-large" Harry Potter, Foley quipped excitedly "Maybe you'll see his wand". Huh-huh. Besides the sexual innuendos, the reward for a prospective couple is a night in a "nightclub" charmingly christened "Shifters". Christ TV3, how fucking long did it take you to come up with that gem? And it never showed anyone actually getting the shift there. The name is a horrible lie. 

As you may have guessed, I didn't enjoy Take Me Out and in fact many aspects of it infuriated me. There was one scene however that had a profound effect one me. This was metaphorical murdering of second Aztec sacrifice David. David was immolated. His ego must have been anyway. For he was completely rejected. None of Take Me Out's "sassy ladies" thought their lives would be enhanced by his presence and by time his "Flirty for thirty" section was complete, all of the ladies had quenched their lights. I felt awfully sorry for David. He was a bonny lad, bright and zippy he was with an innocent face. This may have been his downfall as three girls remarked on how they'd be "too wild" for him. Look girls, you're not Keith fucking Moon. Get over yourselves. As David trudged off in ignominy he did with a brave, sanguine look on his face. His positive attitude must have been a masquerade though. As he walked down the runway, the classic love loser song "All By Myself" pierced through the studio. The man had just been rejected by 30 strangers who didn't even think he was worth a solitary date on national telly. His spirit must have been Nagasakied. 

Admittedly, I am not the target audience for Take Me Out. The show is not made for my consumption nor is made for critical assessment. In my introductory paragrpahs I outlined how, before watching a full episode of the show, I thought it was a "brain-sapping piece of sexist bile". In short, I was correct. 

The harrowing hypocrisy of the Stop Kony campaign.

Twitter and Facebook were hit by a social activist tsunami this week as Invisible Children launched its “Stop Kony 2012” campaign. I’m not going to explain what it is, I know you all know. In quite literally a matter of days Joseph Kony went from being an unheard of African warlord to becoming the anathema of the internet. Not one of Joey’s better weeks I would imagine.

At first the campaign was greeted with approbation and acclaim. The producers were praised for the well-made half-hour video with its emotive and, at times, harrowingly sad depictions of the evils of Joseph Kony and the efforts to capture him. Now I have no problem with that. Kony is quite clearly an evil man who has committed some heinous crimes in the past 25 years, he deserves capture. But the video, and in particular the message it conveys, is a piece of misleading, hypocritical and condescending bile.

The content of the video has come in for criticism regarding its all too simplistic and misleading description of the conflict in Northern Uganda and its failure to apportion any of the blame regarding Joey Kony’s macabre escapades to the Ugandan government. An interesting fact is that there has been no LRA (Lord Resistance Army, Kony’s crew) activity in Northern Uganda since 2006. The video misleads us into believing that Northern Uganda is still a war-torn battlefield.

One criticism that has not been levelled at it thus far is the absolute hypocrisy the video propagates. Who are we, the Western World, to look down our noses and wag our fingers revoltingly at a Ugandan warlord like a teacher reprimanding a naughty school-boy. We in the Western World have some warlords who would make Kony loo like the lovechild of Mother Theresa and the pope (It is unlikely that the pope or Mother Theresa would have engaged in coitus but I shall create the image for use in this analogy). And what’s worse is we elect them as leaders.

George W. Bush is one of the politicians that the campaign wishes to recruit in its campaign to find Kony. My initial reaction to this was one of absolute perplexity and consternation. They want George W. Bush? The same George W. Bush who initiated the illegal occupation of two countries which resulted in the deaths of well over 100,000 civilians? The same George W. Bush who interned scores of innocent men in the infamous Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp? Pardon my French but I wish to depart from my usual eloquent language for just one second to convey my absolute disbelief, are you fucking shitting me? Do Invisible Children not see the hypocrisy in this? One warlord after another warlord.

The campaign itself and the reaction to it are indicative of the uninformed and brainwashed society we inhabit. We see ourselves as some sort of white knight saving the feckless Ugandans from the clutches of the evil Joseph Kony. It helps people sleep at night in the apparent knowledge that they are making the world a better place. But while Western civilisation has enhanced the world in many fields such as innovation, arts and science, we have raped, pillaged and killed on our way to the current position as the apparent apex of human civilisation.

Our leaders are no better than Joseph Kony. The ordinary people of the Occident are intrinsically good but the actions of our governments have contradicted this decency in recent times. America is fast becoming an almighty imperial power, akin to what the British Empire was over a century ago.  The lust for oil and power has led our armies to far-flung lands in recent times and with the recent problems with Iran show more conflict could be on the horizon.

Our leaders don’t care about peace or national security or the wellbeing of other countries. Syria is in absolute turmoil presently but the international community is almost turning a blind eye to it as it’s not in their interest to assist Syria. Syria has only miniscule oil reserves. The Stop Kony video outlines how, after much pressure and lobbying the American Government sent 100 army “advisors” to help develop the Ugandan army in the search for Kony. The video lauds this as a momentous achievement and an example of how Barack Obama and the US Government were touched by the efforts of Invisible Children. But maybe there were other things on the mind of Obama, like, hmmm I don’t know, possibly the discovery of oil-fields in the West of the country thought to contain over 2.5 Billion barrels of oil. But that’s just the cynic in me thinking that, right?

The aim of the campaign, when stripped down to its bare, basic concept is inherently good. Find an evil warlord and capture him. But we have enough evil warlords in the Western World to be dealing with besides tackling a Ugandan problem. There is a saying “real change comes from within”. That adage rings true for both Uganda and Western Civilisation.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Tallafornia: The skid mark on the boxers of Ireland.

It’s difficult to critically assess Tallafornia. From one perspective, you have a soporific, incongruous piece of absolute garbage that destroys any last morsel of self-respect Ireland has at such a tumultuous and embarrassing period in our history. On the other hand however, we have a fascinating mockumentary created by TV3 in a bid to highlight the growing blight of materialism and avarice prevalent among middle-class Irish adolescents in the midst of the worst recession in decades. It’s probably the former though, isn’t it? As in, Tallafornia is an “incongruous piece of garbage”. Yeah, let’s go with that.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the premise of the show at this stage but I’ll explain anyway in case you’re not so Talla-savvy. Tallafornia follows the lives of seven vain and preening imbeciles who have been plonked together in a plush semi-detached house in Tallaght. The aim of the show is to follow their lives as they adjust to their new surroundings and in particular, their love-lives. They’re all Tallaght natives and are eager to show how their community is “vibrant and alive”. How they set about showing this is another story all together.

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve only seen two episodes (and I watched them purely for the sake of this article) so I can’t count myself as a Tallafornicator at this stage but I think I have a firm grasp of the dynamics of a Tallfornia episode. Each instalment features two to three day-trips and two nights out interspersed by a selection of clips from the Tallafornia household and candid one-to-one interviews with each of the cast members, voicing their views on everything from sex, their fellow housemates and well… not much else besides that. The day-trips are the most amusing as the Tallfornia crew have to try and actually act. You know, pretend that they’re not actually slimy, and conceited shitbags. This is difficult as almost all of them are.

The Tallafornia crew are quite a colourful bunch each with their own little idiosyncrasies and annoying habits. There are three girls, Nikita, Kelly and Natalie. Natalie is quite a nondescript player, happy to remain on the fringes of the group while Kelly and Nikita are more loquacious but this is not necessarily a good thing as they both have the combined intelligence of a bottle of Aldi shampoo. Nikita is your typical blabbermouth, nonsensical Dublin oompa loompa while Kelly is more ditzy and deceiving. At this stage in the series, Nikita and Kelly are not talking to each other as one of them did something the other one didn’t like… I think it involved men of some description though I can’t be too sure (I dozed off a few times).

There are four buff, strong and incredibly narcissistic Tallafornia lads to accompany the terrible trio of girls. Cormac, charmingly and rather wittingly I might add christened ‘the Cormanator’ by his housemates, is perhaps the most vain and most narcissistic of the lot but displays his narcissism in a more reserved fashion than his housemates which is helpful. He’s rather quiet, dismissive of his housemates (especially Nikita) and is built like a brick shithouse. David is the most bourgeoisie of the crew with his bleached hair, muscular physique and fake D4 accent. He is also perhaps the least intelligent which is quite a feat. Jay is the most affable of the men and seems to get on with everyone. He can be quite wise from time to time also. Well, comparatively wise I mean. He’s not quoting Nietzsche or anything.

And then there’s Philly. Yep, notice how I’ve opened up a new paragraph to discuss Philly. It’s because I’ll need it. Philly is the most putrid, most repugnant, most idiotic member of the Tallafornia crew and it’s not as if he’s facing weak competition. He is the archetypal Jackeen wide-boy. Actually Jay-Z describes him best – “You know the type loud as a motor bike but wouldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight.” That’s our Philly, plenty of talk but no action. He constantly brags about bringing “bitches” home and how Kelly and Nikita are apparently lusting after his well-oiled body. He is right on one count – Nikita has, for some unknown reason, been quite taken by Philly but let’s remind ourselves that Nikita is also the girl who “scored” twenty-one men in one night in episode three I think. And he has never brought a girl back to the Tallafornia household. You are quite the sex symbol Philly. Besides his horrible hubris, Philly is also a pillock towards his male housemates, his supposed “mates”.

Take episode four for instance. David and Kelly have just called time on their relationship and, in an attempt to make David jealous, Kelly makes advances towards Philly. Now instead of repelling said advances, like all good “mates” should, Philly proceeds to drink shots off Kelly’s breasts and feed her alcohol from his waist. He then justifies said provocative behaviour to David by stating naively “I didn’t kiss her mate”. He dismisses all blame for himself and instead accuses Kelly of being a “whore”. Classy  behaviour Philly you turd.

The rest of the crew’s antics seem incredibly staged and rehearsed. The arguments are quite tame in comparison to what I’ve seen between real idiots in real life and the dialogue between the characters is poorly acted and surely scripted. I have no idea why anyone would watch this unless they wanted a glimpse into the lives of spoiled, ostentatious eejits who should be banned from human interaction until they learn that there is an earth. It is round and it doesn’t just revolve around them. Do yourself a favour, don’t watch it.