Tuesday, October 31, 2006
I remember loving The Clash in the early and mid-'90s and people would say they'd never even heard of them! Even today you'll do well to hear anything other than Rock The Casbah or Should I Stay Or Should I Go on the radio.
Anyway after this Observer article I'll nail my colours to the mast and declare Safe European Home my favourite Clash song, with honourable mentions for Armagideon Time and Clampdown.
Monday, October 30, 2006
However, funnily enough for someone who loves going to live gigs, I can't stand pub bands so I've stayed out of the pubs all weekend knowing that they'd all be packed and too loud to make yourself heard, which to me defeats the purpose of going to pubs to meet friends.
Therefore it was a weekend of Sport for me - Saturday was two Premiership games, Boring Munster egg-chasers and the International Rules; Sunday was the finale of the MotoGP (so much better than F1), Leinster, the FAI Cup Semi-Final, Atletico Madrid in the Spanish football and some NFL. You'd know I was single!
Anyway all that sport taught me, or reminded me, that football really kicks the ass of all other field sports. Football is a simple game with simple logical rules understood the world over. The only controversies over interpretation of rules are as a result of the speed and split-second nature of the game. Even offside is a simple concept made unnecessarily complicated by the gobshites in FIFA. However the arbitrary nature of the rules of other sports reflect their mishmash evolution and inherent inferiority to football.
Take International Rules first - a mongrel game derived from Gaelic Football, which has its ridiculously vague 'tackle' rules and wholly arbitrary rules regarding ball possession (must hop or solo the ball toe-to-hand within every six steps; can't hop the ball twice in a row etc.) and Aussie Rules, which also has arbitrary ball possession and 'mark' rules.
Ireland defeated Australia on Saturday but people complained the game lacked 'bite'. This is a direct result of the Australians being chastened after the amount of violence they meted out last year. Last year the future of the series was at risk because of the violent scenes and now this year it's at risk if the proceedings stay as docile. Ridiculous really. I won't give you my opinion on the people who seem to get off on watching men beat each other around the field of play.
As for hurling it's virtually sacriliege to dare criticise it, yet it has it's own bizarre ball possession rules - run with the ball on the stick (like an egg and spoon race) and you're allowed take the ball in your hand off the stick once and put it back, but not handle it a second time. Why? Then take NFL. Four 'Downs' to make up ten yards. Why? Why not three or five? Why ten yards. Why do certain plays stop the clock but not other plays? Having said that it's still a more logical game than rugby, and the tackles, while hard, at least don't result in piles of bodies groping in the mud. So I do prefer it to rugby - good ol' egg-chasing, the most ridiculous of the lot.
Take League first. In order to stop the game becoming a relentless grind up the pitch the rules were changed to limit a team in possession to six tackles, i.e. the sixth time the team has a player tackled in possession they have to kick the ball away or turn play over. Again, why six? Still, though, League is a far more straightforward game than Union...
The Union game takes the biscuit. So many ridiculously arbitrary rules that the ref spends the whole game shouting instructions to both sets of players, teams are expected to compile dossiers on how different refs interpret the rules (!!!) and where commentators don't even bother attempting to explain why a ref has penalised a team because they don't know themselves.
One example. If a kicker is inside his 22 yard line he may kick the ball out of play and there is a lineout from where the ball went out. If he is outside his 22 he may kick the ball out of play but the ball must bounce in the field of play first for the lineout to be at that point on the pitch. If he kicks it straight out it's from in line with where he kicked it. That's all taken for granted but think, for a second, how daft all of that is.
But the Leinster game hammered it home for me. Leinster scored three tries to Edinburgh's one, yet lost. In similar sports (i.e. Rugby League and NFL) the equivalent just would not happen. Basically the referee repeatedly penalised Leinster at 'the breakdown', which is where the ball carrier is hauled to the ground and everyone wades in to cop a good feel.
Take this section of the match report in the Irish Times: "[The referee's] interpretation of the breakdown bamboozled the Irish to the point of distraction. At one point in the second half the penalty count was 13-4 in favour of the home side. Leinster coach Michael Cheika wouldn't be drawn on the official's performance, instead awaiting a video review to seek answers to several questions. "I asked the boys at half-time (why we were being penalised) but no one knew. You'd have to ask the referee. He's the one making the calls. Every time the game got going there was a penalty or a free." Every team compiles a dossier on a referee's approach, and even if Leinster were caught unawares by some of his decisions they should have adapted on the pitch. Edinburgh played the referee better..."
That last line is just ridiculous, really. And, these days, a kick from 50-yards (or more) can be considered three points that should be taken whereas a try - actually scoring - is worth five points. Nonsense.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
What all of these disparate issues have in common are surveys, studies, statistics and reports. To be more precise, they all have had surveys, studies, statistics and reports that appear to back up both sides of the arguments. This is nothing new, but the modern day twist is that any half-wit with a computer can form an opinion and google for statistics that he can then present as 'evidence' to back up his claims.
The problem is that this person almost never critically assesses the information he has found before writing letters to the papers or going on the radio phone-ins. In the case of surveys, for example, the value of the results is all in the wording of the questions - 90% of people could tell you they support the right to eat dogs but that would not be a surprise if the question was "Would you eat a dog to avoid starving to death?". Similarly, with studies, homeopathy could be 'proven' to work - if the study consisted of giving a subject something and simply asking "Do you feel better?" Homeopathy was once 'proven' to work for pets on the basis that their owners had a) decided their pet was ill and b) decided that it had since become well again following treatment.
Selective quoting is another problem (or, as they out it in Private Eye, quoting "Out of Con-Text"). A protestor might quote from a study that something is 'potentially dangerous' and neglect to point out the associated factors that could result in a dangerous situation occuring and the statistical improbability of those factors coming into play. And, obviously, the reverse is true - a proponent of something could claim that it is perfectly 'safe' yet neglect to point out that this is assuming it never rains, for example.
What I would say is this. When someone arguing the toss presents you with 'evidence' gleaned from surveys and studies, ask yourself which came first - the person's reading of the survey/study or that person's forming of their opinion. You should be able to judge how seriously they should be taken as a result.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Dundalk 3 Galway Utd 1
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Monday, October 16, 2006
The 'controversial' docu-drama Death of a President airs this week on Channel 4. I saw it last Friday night on More 4 and I have to say it's decidedly unimpressive. I had read stuff about how eerily realistic it is, how gripping it is (and other such blather) but it did nothing for me. At no point did I ever consider "what if this really happened?...", which is surely the point. Also the film's politics are a dead giveaway from the word go.
For a start you have to accept that, while the president has grown so unpopular in 2007 that thousands of masked protestors are taking to the streets, the Chicago police presence would still be light enough to struggle to keep control and the Secret Service would fail to secure every building with a sight line of the president's walkabout. I don't think so.
I mean this reviewer says "this is easily the most dangerous and breathtakingly original film I have encountered this year." Christ, cinema must have gotten awful dull since I last went to the flicks... You see the important thing to note is that the film doesn't deal with the aftermath of such an invasion at all - either depressing, doomsday descent into chaos or rosy Cheney loses the election and new guy fixes the world afterglow.
Instead it attempts to paint a picture about the States today (racial profiling, the threat posed by Islamic extremism, disillusionment in the armed forces, the assault on civil liberties) through a documentary-style exposé of a miscarriage of justice - and it does nothing of the kind. Maybe I wasn't concentrating enough and I missed what so many reviewers seem to have taken from it. I just think a real documentary could do all that without going for a glammed-up fiction that includes assassinating the president. To be honest I'd find a soap opera more realistic.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Now none of this is Stan defending, as such, just calling bullshit as I see it:
"Once again, we're falling into the trap of being satisfied with a home draw in a game that at the end of the campaign we will look back upon as one that should have been won." Rubbish. Everyone at the game, the players and the manager all said we should have won. There's nothing wrong with being satisfied with a performance.
"There's not much logic in celebrating the result which the opposition wanted." Who celebrated the result? We were pleased with the performance - there's a difference.
"It's unfortunate that none of the players who were involved in Cyprus decided to speak after the Czech game." Horseshit. Kevin Kilbane gave RTE all the time they wanted after the game and answered any Cyprus-related question asked.
"The quality of performance against the Czechs makes the Cypriot collapse all the more reprehensible." WTF? That's just a no win situation. Play bad again you get ridiculed; play well and you get ridiculed again for the previous performance. Cyprus was, end of, but this line of reasoning is used to suggest that the manager has no right to even attempt to earn redemption.
"Possibly the FAI will react with a little less angst in view of the fact that they didn't exactly put themselves in hock when, rather than pursue a coach of the calibre of O'Neill, they went for the splendid ex-player but tyro Walsall coach Staunton" That is utter bollox. It is a FACT that Martin O'Neill was the FAI's first choice and it is a FACT that he did not want the job because it is a FACT that the only international job he was interested in was England when his wife went into remission after cancer treatment.
"Where once Roy Keane warned about celebrating away draws, Ireland's manager was pumped after a point at Lansdowne against a team that wanted no more." And again. He was 'pumped' because the PERFORMANCE had saved his job, not the result and the Czechs played for the draw because of our performance, they didn't decide that at the start - yet now it's being spun into another weapon against the manager.
"If the results last week were reversed, Steve Staunton would be out of a job today." That's a pointless argument that only a halfwit would use. Or a journalist.
"By Wednesday, Cyprus had been spun into no more than a press overkill." Rewriting history at this stage.
"The four-year plan means an acceptance of defeat, of poor performances and tactical chaos. It means celebrating home draws. The Roy Keane model for Irish football has been abandoned, the pursuit of excellence has been surrendered." Again lies. No one is accepting defeat. We want evidence of improvement and a return to the days when effort and honesty overcame more gifted opponents. How many times was Roy Keane on an Irish side that beat a half decent side away from home? Never. Do you need to be told this is written by Dion Fanning?
"Some players are said to be disillusioned and dismayed by Staunton's training and tactics." Quite possibly, but Dion gets away with the sort of innuendo and suggestion (i.e. where's the evidence?) that's the trademark of The News of the World.
"The mention of his father's illness was perhaps a spin too far. Both my parents were diagnosed with cancer in the last four years and my father died of it. That did not exempt me from criticism by people who did not like my writing and it wouldn't have been an excuse for not doing my job properly." Where did Stan suggest that his father's illness exempted him from criticism? He actually stated the opposite and simply said he wanted trashy-hacks to stop badgering his parents so who's guilty of spin?...
"Stan got lucky that it was the Czechs we were playing on Wednesday. Had the results of the last week come in reverse order the cutler of Merrion Square would have been reaching for his whetstone. Had the fixtures been reversed, had Ireland drawn a home game they might have won, throwing away a lead within the space of two minutes, and then gone to Cyprus and got thumped 5-2 it would be all over now." Same argument again - still daft. Apart from anything else, a defensive collapse like O'Brien had against Cyprus just would not happen if he had (hypothetically) played well against the Czechs 4 days earlier. It sounds like a simple argument but, really, it's all so hypothetical as to be redundant.
"Wednesday night in Lansdowne was extraordinary in that it reminded us of how easy it is to kindle Irish passion about its football team. A bit of work and graft and honesty is enough to bring a home crowd to its feet and an unconvinced press box in line." We never got that passionate in Lansdowne under your buddy Brian Kerr, did we Tom? Possibly because we never once performed that well at home during his two qualifying campaigns in charge.
Honestly, journalists are tossers.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Remember that, for all the press and media coverage the NIMBYs are getting, there seems to be only roughly 100 active protesters in Mayo and only 20 bothered to show up to the protest at Shell's headquarters in Dublin the other day. Hardly a mass movement.
And a wee message for Mr Cowley (although he'll never get it); the gas off our west coast does not belong to the people of Mayo. It belongs to the State, i.e. all of us, and our elected representatives signed a contract with a professional company whose business is the extraction of natural resources.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
There is a bit of a rumour going around, in fact it is fast becoming an urban legend, that when 20 year-old first cap debutant Paul McShane got to the dressing room at half time the rest of the lads were smiling, talking quietly and taking a breather. So he said to them "Right lads, now’s not the time to start sucking each others c*cks…!"
I love him to bits already! Oh, and C'MON THE TOWN!
In the meantime Ireland didn't even do this in that dream I had last Saturday...
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Inevitably Mr. Murray was called on such rubbish and today had another letter published where he states that "the Nigerian state imprisoned Wiwa and his colleagues for the "crime" of trying to protect their people and land. The Irish State has colluded with Shell in the imprisonment of the Rossport Five, whose "crime" was their determination to resist the running of a dangerous pipeline through the heart of their small rural community.
There was no such collusion, Mr. Murray, as anyone with half an intellect would realise. They were jailed for contempt of court. And last time I checked, I lived in a parliamentary democracy with an independent judiciary. But then that would be a mature reflection on the issue, which is beyond your average NIMBY and their apologists.
Monday, October 09, 2006
And so it was with Saturday's Irish Times where 'Western Correspondent', Lorna Siggins, 'reported' from Mayo where the local NIMBYs are objecting to a gas pipeline on safety grounds (spurious, in my humble opinion). Without attempting to deal with the main issue itself here, a few pieces from the article deserve to be highlighted, in view of the strapline that the piece is a 'report'.
First we have 'Such a structure [offshore gas rig] would have to be "almost as high as the Empire State building" if built for the Corrib field, Shell's new Mayo-based deputy manager, Terry Nolan, said in Castlebar several weeks ago. Conceding that this related to height from the sea-bed at the well-head, his argument was quickly dismissed as "disingenuous" by the Shell to Sea campaign.' Note how the word 'disingenuous', an opinion (and one that is not expanded upon), is highlighted and left hanging at the end for the reader to accept that, indeed, 'Empire State Building-size' structures in the Atlantic are somehow not an issue.
Then we have 'That announcement, which culminated in this week's televised scenes of local community members being carried behind restraining barriers by uniformed gardaí, was backed up by some additional "choreography" - to quote Dr Mark Garavan of the Shell to Sea campaign. He believes nothing in relation to Corrib/Shell happens by chance.' Again a choicely quoted word, 'choreography' hangs in the paragraph. No mention of course that the Garda presence was SOLELY as a result of the intention of the protestors to block workers' access to their place of employment i.e. NOT just to protest but to actively obstruct.
And another thing, what is the fact that the guy is a doctor got to do with anything? This Garavan guy is regularly used as a spokesman; most likely because, being a doctor, he won't get dismissed as a thick hick - and it works. But since when did a training in medicine give someone carte blanche to comment on matters of engineering or the environment?
Then there's 'there was another unsubstantiated Sunday newspaper report alleging Sinn Féin/IRA links with the community objection to the terminal.' Unsubstantiated? Really? Type 'Rossport' into the sinnfein.ie website and you get 624 hits. How many of those support the national interest of energy security? How many of those question the dubious claims of the NIMBYs? I don't recall any statements that Sinn Féin's input wasn't welcome, thank you very much.
Siggins then displays some pretty pathetic ignorance of the current energy-supply situation with her little bombshell that 'European gas prices fell below zero as extra supplies from the new Langeled pipeline linking Norway to Britain caused a glut. Another pipeline from the Netherlands will be opened in December, and companies, including a Shannon-based venture here, are preparing to build terminals to import liquefied natural gas.' Do you really think that glut is any more than temporaary? Do you think Norwegian gas via Britain is a permanently secure supply? Do you think gas piped from Norway is as cost effective as gas piped from just off our own coast? Do you remember what happened western Europe when Russia stopped Ukraine's supplies last winter?
And, really, right there is one of my pet hates about journalism - people given the privilege to write, writing outside their fields about topics of which they have no more knowledge or expertise than the man on the street.
She finishes with the joke 'that if Moyross in Limerick needs extra gardaí for its difficulties, there's one easy way to do it - round up a few concerned neighbours and recite the Rosary on a public road.' Ha Ha.
You see none of this is to doubt that some concerns are genuine, or that aspects of how the State or Shell have handled this whole issue are troubling. But this wasn't a 'report' in any real sense of the word. Lorna Siggins has clearly decided who she supports and her piece is opinion barely masked as a 'report', but one that leaves the uncritical reader with the impression of a battle between nasty state and corporate agents against the poor down-trodden locals, while the rest of us look on with no stake in the outcome.
Friday, October 06, 2006
I mean off the top of my head I can recall stories about an apology to Brooke Shields, the first pictures of 'their' evil-looking baby, then talk about a wedding with sweet-stupid Katie, talk about her starring as Victoria Beckham (wtf?), stuff about the closet-dweller wanting Katie to get fit post-babóg and now denials of 'reports' that she's pregnant again. Personally I heard about the denial on the radio before I ever heard she was supposed to be up-the-duff again.
Surely all this non-news (even for vacuous celeb-news) is only because he's gagging for some new work?
Thursday, October 05, 2006
There’s no point in doing a treatise of their claims here, because a) I'm not qualified enough and b) if I did do the research I’d deserve a wider audience than this blog has! And, surely, the same point about lack of qualifications/real knowledge applies to the NIMBYs as well. I do know, however, that one claim often made - that sometimes wind would theoretically supply zero electricity to the grid - is based on an assumption that none of the fossil-fuel plants would ever be shut down during an excess supply situation, and not due to any issue with wind-generated power itself, which these people neglect to clarify.
Suffice to say however that common sense dictates that some of their suggestions are supremely daft, for example building all the turbines offshore. First you don’t need to be an engineer to realise that a) this would be considerably more expensive, b) that the number of suitable locations for such endeavours is limited and c) offshore turbines in the Atlantic are an entirely different kettle of fish from those on the Arklow sandbank. Also those who bang on about wave energy neglect to point out that the island would need hundreds of miles of high-tension cable to distribute power that can only be generated on the Atlantic coast (i.e. more NIMBYs).
If these people know the 'truth' about wind energy then why did they not form their action group when the turbines were being built on the Arklow Bank a few years back (and save all those private investors their, as yet not wasted, cash)? Clearly because that’s not their real agenda – the ‘truth’ claims are an attempt to reinforce what is, in essence, standard NIMBY obstructionism. But this time it's not about something *nasty* (like an incinerator) but about something good that benefits the environment – my, their and your environment.
If I had my way (God, if only…) I would legislate that people receiving their electricity from fossil fuels, who are in a position to benefit from green sources, would pay a premium for their obstructionism. Communities that agree to turbines, or whatever, would pay reduced rates. The same would go for communities who agree to incinerators AND recycling plants in their areas. Actually screw it, we should either cut them off or build nuclear power stations behind their primary schools.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Well the clue might be in the edition from a fortnight previously about corruption in English football - Football's Dirty Secrets. What's the connection? Well Panorama used to be a prime-time show but, as terrestrial TV has dumbed down in the face of the multi-channel invasion, current affairs shows like Panorama have been shunted around the schedules to ever more viewer unfriendly slots.
Soon, however, Panorama is going back to prime-time (to fulfil licensing requirements) and, obviously, the BBC doesn't want a ratings disaster. So, instead of genuine investigative reporting, we get tabloid front-page and back-page innuendo, suggestion, implied wrong-doing etc. We get the stuff that people will talk about in the canteens the next day, i.e. paedo-priests and crooked football managers.
Even the edition in between, Has it got to be Gordon?, was tabloid all the way (the programme opened with the totally irrelevant views of Alan Sugar, who just happens to be the 'star' of the BBC version of... er... that reality career nonsense thingy). The meat of the show - interviewing someone who matters, but who would be unknown to the average Jonny Englander - was left 'til near the end.
The football show was an utter joke, managing to demonstrate that minor-player agents are desperate to get into the big time and that Sam Allardyce's son Craig is a bit thick. The show then claimed, out of next to nowhere, that 18 past or present managers have been guilty of taking bungs. Possibly they are - but Panorama came nowhere near proving it. In the aftermath the BBC has constantly made reference to the show and how it has 'lifted the lid' on football's bung culture yet on Newsnight later the same evening a distinctly unimpressed Jeremy Paxman got the Panorama producer to admit that, indeed, they had proved nothing.
So this is what we have to look forward to; the serious networks have a duty to provide current affairs but it is a ratings loser. Therefore even the most reputable of shows will be dumbed down in a straw-clutching attempt to hold onto any amount of audience share at all. Sad.
Monday, October 02, 2006
The stag house in Donegal near Ballyshannon, not that I spent much time in it. Good times and, amazingly, all the same friends (bar two) that spent the millenium-eve together in a holiday-house in Wexford.
An evening view from my dad's gaff in West Mayo (the night the hurricane was due in). He has it 6-years but I had never seen it before the other week. It is beautiful, but wouldn't suit my lifestyle!
One of 12 massive bierhausen (or whatever they were called) at Oktoberfest. This picture was taken from only halfway back and at about midday. By 6pm everyone is standing and singing dodgy 80s tunes like 'Life Is Life' - "lah, lah, la lalah; life, is, life; lah, lah, la lalah" - and Bavarian folk tunes. I swear they were getting so excited by about 8pm that I was thinking of warning the Polish government about an invasion any second! You couldn't do this in Ireland, which speaks volumes, really.
Meanwhile I couldn't take the fact I was missing so many good bands in the run up to Christmas so I'm taking a week off and going to four gigs in a row in mid-November - CSS, Tapes 'n' Tapes, The Futureheads and TV On The Radio. As a result I'm going to have to flog my Sufjan Stephens tickets for the week before. Pity.