Category Archives: Interesting

Irony, Thy Name Is… Me?

I am your archetypal daydreamer. I mostly wander around with my head in the clouds carelessly minding my own bidness until something provokes enough thought that I feel like I have to come down for a minute to say something about it. Well recently I read an article that roused me from my mental hibernation. It was called ‘The Voice of The People’. It was in Sundays’ ‘Life’ magazine with the Independent and was written by a guy called Declan Lynch.

The subheading read: “There’s a reason why everyone doesn’t have a voice and a reason why bloggers are just bloggers.”

Now, usually I’m not one to get all antsy over something between the two covers of a magazine that comes free with the Sunday paper but this particular scribe implicated me. He implicated and he criticized me and any other person out there who has the audacity to flaunt freedom of expression in the form of… A blog!

The article wasn’t directly about blogging really. It was about how we have become a nation of uncertain nitwits who call for a referendum at the first hint of a political decision needing to be made. That’s all fair enough but Declan pointed the finger. A bold enough move when you’re pointing it at the majority.

Basically, Mr. Lynch griped sarcastically for a few hundred words about how blogging has become so popular in recent years and how it’s killing “real journalism”. He reckons that because anyone can write a blog, the integrity of the journalistic vocation is, essentially, being shit on by every Tom, Dick and Harry with a laptop and a basic ability to type/form an opinion.

The first conclusion to spring to my mind upon reading the piece was that there was no way in hell that the writer was below the age of 40. You know that TV show that used to be on BBC called ‘Grumpy Old Men’ where people like Bob Geldof , Jeremy Clarkson, Rory McGrath and the like just sat there and grumbled about things that they didn’t understand? That’s what it put me in mind of. It was like listening to an old man giving out about how it’s far from blogging he was raised and things, of course, were better when he was a buck. And BINGO, further research tells me that Declan Lynch was born in 1961.

In Ireland, we’re terrified of change. Kind of the point of Mr. Lynch’s story in the first place. So it’s hypocritical enough to see the article pan out as the words of a middle-aged man who appears petrified that his job might be at risk to some, in his own mocking words, “desperado” with a blog.

The thing is, in one respect, I can appreciate where he’s coming from. I can see why he feels that his professional toes are being stepped on by the simplicity and freedom that the 21st century and the internet culture provide. There is, no question, an abundance of personal blogs out there covering just about every topic you can think of and laymen with too much time on their hands are behind a vast majority of them.

In another respect, however, I feel that Mr. Lynch is an intolerant old stick-in-the-mud who has a dislike for modernism and the fact that it is now possible for everyone to have a voice regardless of whether they’re endorsed by a publication or not.

I have a degree in Journalism from Dublin City University. I spent three years earning it. About a year and a half into my studies I came to the realisation that, while I loved to write, I had very little interest in resigning myself to a life limited by word counts, deadlines, uninteresting subject matter and the brutality of editors. The reality of the profession was revealed to be a million miles from the idealistic reason I got into it in the first place. Where I wanted journalism to be a craft; something you could be creative with, an outlet for originality and flair, I was thumped in the face with a reality of ruthlessness, confinement and censorship. I finished my studies, graduated with the rest of my class and, while most of my peers ventured off into the cut-throat world of professional journalism, I ventured into the unexpected but wholly more gratifying terrain of childcare, where I today remain.

Point being? That not everyone who writes a blog is an uneducated imbecile who doesn’t deserve a voice, as Mr. Lynch not so discreetly implies. I take exception to the notion that just because a person chooses to write on their own terms it makes them less of a writer than someone who gets paid to roll out mundane “inverted pyramid” style news articles for a broadsheet paper. While a payroll journalist gets the freedom to write about whatever the editor decides, the blogger utilises initiative and crafts something. The blogger has the creative independence that the paid reporter can only hope to someday earn professionally and the blogger can, if he plays his cards right, generate as much attention for their work as any byline can for theirs.

The fact is that, as much as old school “I used to have to walk a mile in the snow just to get clean drinking water” grouches like Mr. Lynch are loathe to tolerate it, the internet is the future of communication. Matter fact, it’s not even the future. It’s the present. This month, Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that, after 244 years in print, it would now only be available online. I mean, I love books (I refuse to ever have a Kindle, for example) but if that’s not one of the final nails in the coffin of the printed word, I don’t know what is. Also, here’s a link to an article listing all the major news stories that were broken on twitter (by the layman) before anywhere else: http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/10-news-stories-that-broke-on-twitter-first-719532

In his tirade, Mr. Lynch alleges that “being good is not the point anymore.” Well, I respectfully disagree with that principle. Being “good” remains an essential component in any piece of journalism whether it comes in the form of an article, a column, a blog or even a tweet. Regardless of the encompassing accessibility of blogging to anyone with a notion to be heard in some way, good writers remain; There are people out there who are perceptive, creative, witty, outspoken and ingenious. They write, undiscovered and unappreciated. But doing it for one common reason: A love of writing.

And what’s wrong with that Declan Lynch?

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Take This Pink Ribbon Off My Eyes

Feminism.

I know, I know… My mind is exactly where yours is right now, picturing some ugly bird with a mole on her chin, in an unflattering outfit, holding a match to her bra, bitching about Playboy whilst simultaneously painting a picture of her breasts in a liberating expression of femininity.

Look, I am going to discuss feminism up in here. But… I don’t like that sanctimonious aul’ hag any more than you do. She’s extreme and impractical, either ignorant to or disregarding of the fact that she needs that bra to stop her boobies heading south for a chat with her bellybutton.

Aussie Feminist, Germaine Greer said this about bras: “Bras are a ludicrous invention, but if you make bralessness a rule, you’re just subjecting yourself to yet another repression. For some, the bra remains a symbol of restrictions imposed by society on women.”
Ludicrous?!How about this, Germaine, assuming you’re not quite a 32A, bin the bra and then go for a jog on the treadmill. Ludicrous still? Or proven essential? Personally, I like to wear a bra most days. Not only that but I’ll take all the support they can offer me. Full-cup? Yessir. wide bone? That’s the ticket! Three clasps at the back? Sold!

But anyways, I’ve digressed. Feminism is an issue that makes most modern women recoil in horror and embark on a passionate denial campaign. That’s thanks to the stereotypical notions of feminists as cranky, man-hating, hippies striving to be artists, poets, scholars and feckin’ electricians.

sexism

I am not a feminist. I think women have come too far to still be playing victims. Modern feminism is little more than a justification for women to fight for something that is already ours, something that was given to us by women like Emily Davison, the suffragette who was killed in 1913 when she threw herself in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in a display of martyrdom for women’s rights, of which we had few.

But we no longer have few. The suffragettes of the 20th century were the real feminists. The cause was real and the goal was immense. They changed the world. In the 1960s second-wave feminism exploded. The contraceptive pill was approved and a whole bunch of new issues arose. The hippies were ON IT! They tackled sexism and workplace discrimination. Big things, you guys. Big things. The women of yesteryear made it easy for us. They fought the fight so we could reap the benefits.

Suffragette, Emily Davison, throws herself in front of the King's horse at the Epsom Derby, 1913

Suffragette, Emily Davison, throws herself in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby, 1913

So why are we still not happy?

We are currently in the centre of what is known as “third-wave feminism”. Now, under-informed and unenthusiastic about the movement, I can only speak from personal opinion. And my personal opinion is that these modern feminists would want to take a step back and realise that women have never been so free. Neither have we ever been so powerful. 2012 is not the time to be crying about how difficult it is to be female.

Small yarn: My 20-year-old brother has been driving for five years. He passed his driving test first time. He drives a small but incredibly loud little Fiesta. And he is plagued by the guards. The kid is insured. He’s taxed. The car is NCT’d. He has a full-licence. He is, in all regards, completely within the law. Yet he is stopped by the Siochana frequently. His discs are checked. He is questioned. Sometimes searched. I, on the other hand, am 24-years old. I have been driving my little navy Yaris for two years. Like my brother, I am reliably law-abiding. Unlike my brother, I am left alone by the Guards. Rightly so. But the double standard, far as I’m concerned, seems to be gender focused. In the eyes of the Irish cop, a young dude like my brother has to be up to no good. Catching him on the roads provokes a full interrogation. I’ve been stopped on the roads once… Once… In two years. The guard made a bit of small talk, looked at my licence and sent me on my merry way. I’m a girl. Why would they bother interrogating me? It’s the lads they’re after.
Is not that sexism? Methinks so.

The fact is that we live in a time rife with strong women. Hillary Clinton. She came so close to being president that time. It’s gonna happen someday soon yo! A woman will be president of the United States. Lori Reynolds made headlines last year when she assumed the role of Commander of the USMC training headquarters at Parris Island. Julia Gillard became Prime Minister of Australia in 2010. More familiar faces like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Angelina Jolie. Women. Being. BOSS! The music industry too is dominated by women. Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lopez, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Nicki Minaj and, my personal list-topper, Beyonce Knowles.

See, Beyonce’s got it right. Successful, beautiful, talented and savvy. She’s the biggest star in the world right now. She knows what she’s doing. Her priorities are set and all her ducks are in a row. She sang ‘Independent Women’ with Destiny’s Child and she meant it. Jay-Z has 99 problems but his bitch ain’t one. Beyonce shows us that you can have great strength and still be feminine. She voids the feministic idea that women should reject societal ideals; things like make-up, high-heels and embracing sexuality. Beyonce wears heels, she shows some skin and she runs the world (ish).

Powerful Women: Clockwise L-R: First Lady Michelle Obama, President of the Indian National Congress Sonia Gandhi, First US female navy carrier-based fighter pilot Kara Hultgreen, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Oprah Winfrey, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Editor-In-Chief of the New York Times Jill Abramson and (Centre) Beyonce Knowles.

Powerful Women: Clockwise L-R: First Lady Michelle Obama, President of the Indian National Congress Sonia Gandhi, First US female navy carrier-based fighter pilot Kara Hultgreen, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Oprah Winfrey, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Editor-In-Chief of the New York Times Jill Abramson and (Centre) Beyonce Knowles.

We don’t need angry old dolls bitching about porn and maternity leave, born into the wrong generation and tardy to the party by about forty years. Women, in the 21st century, well, we’re alright. I’m a firm believer that if one plays the victim, one will be the victim. If feminists could just quit the moaning and look around they’d see that they’re fighting a battle that has already been won. The audience has celebrated and moved on and they are left behind, full of resentment because they seem to now feel that women deserve superior rights to men.

I don’t believe that radical expression and lingering on issues past is doing anything for women. But I do believe in independence, in confidence and in doing and being anything you want, regardless of gender.

In Pink’s song, ‘Stupid Girls’, she comments on the abundant examples of unmotivated, under-achieving, conformist girls whose life goals include having bigger boobs and marrying into money. These chicks are everywhere. They wanna be WAGS, they love fancy handbags and they play dumb to make men feel more intelligent. They spend their childhood wanting to be vets and then, somewhere along the way, a lack of inspiration and/or proper guidance they come to believe that one’s goal in life should be marriage, money and children. The ambition of being a vet gets replaced with one of just wanting a husband who makes a decent wage. The sound of their dreams gets drowned out by the deafening tick of their biological clock. These girls do just about as much for women as the modern feminists do, reiterating clichés of women, setting us back and standing as utterly useless role models for the confused generation behind us.

Have you ever read any of the women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire? I think they’re behind this conflict between being a Courtney Stodden or a Tracy Emin. It was actually an article in Cosmopolitan that inspired this article/rant/nonsense. It was written by a dude who was giving out about men having to pay for everything on dates. Is he right or is he wrong? I’ve no idea really. But it made me think. In the same issue of Cosmo there was an article about how in order to succeed, women need to be pushier, like men. Few pages ahead, there’s an article listing the three things that men look for in a girl (1. you don’t flip out if you lose your phone. 2. you can sense if something’s wrong with him. 3. you tell funny, interesting stories about your day). Few pages ahead there’s an interview with Olympic athlete, Jessica Ennis. An article on how to firm up your body. Then an article called (and I’m dead serious with this) ‘What His Penis Wishes You Knew.’ Then an inspiring interview with “An Alpha Female”. It’s just all so inconsistent. Of course, it’s all silly fluff really, but there are women who read that stuff and think, “yeah, I wanna know what his penis wishes I knew!” We all know idiots like that.

cosmo-fit-article

But look, I’m not saying that I’m any kind of brilliant, independent, gung-ho maverick woman. I bought that magazine. And I read it cover to cover.

A few months back, I wrote a piece about my second year in college when I lived with four guys. It was awesome. I loved it. I loved them. We had a blast. When the year was up and third year rolled around, I was in an apartment with four other girls. It was not cool. They did not like me. I did not like them. We did not have a blast. When all was said and done I concluded that men have it right with their approach. They just don’t give a crap. A spade is a spade. They don’t feel hard done by as men. And they don’t care if we feel hard done by as women.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, why can’t we just be let be. I like being a girl. I like having long nails. I like styling my hair. I like high-heels. But I also like Discovery Channel documentaries. I like roaming the countryside with my dogs. I like video games. I believe in romance too but it’s not my be all and end all. I think if you take care of yourself, indulge your interests, chase your dreams and be the best you can be, the rest will come.

Life is what you make of it. It’s not about oppression. It’s not about discrimination. And it’s certainly not about gender. It’s time to forget feminism altogether, let sleeping dogs lie and seize the opportunities that lie in front of us. If he doesn’t hold the door open for you, it’s just because he’s a prick, that’s all. And you’re a prick too if you don’t hold it open for him. That’s gender equality.

Handy Work If You Can Get It

“Tell me about the health issues you’ve had recently.”

Staring blankly across the table at the man I was paying €40 to read my cards, I racked my brain.

“I’ve always been pretty healthy,” I replied, almost apologetic at having failed to come up with anything that had ailed me in recent months.

“No, emotionally,” he made a second attempt.

Again, I hit a brick wall. I understood his logic. It would be a fairly safe bet to assume that the majority of the usual suspects that graced the curtain of his “psychic’s lair” would have had some kind of emotional turbulence going on thus provoking their visit. Alas, I was not one of those people and, having been informed that I was incredibly fearful of rejection and that I cry a lot on the inside, I was now concluding that this man was nothing more than a very good con artist.

I would like to clarify at this point that paying €40 to have my future told by a chain-smoking medium down the back of a pub in Mullingar was not my idea. It was my mothers. Inherently trusting and full of faith, she wholly believes in angels, banshees and the ability of those few to see the future. She’d been to this guy several times. Swore by him. Many do.

I, on the other hand, am innately more sceptical. I have little time for religion, UFO sightings or ghosts. In general, if you can’t explain it to me, it ain’t getting past the door. I once read a saying on one of those funny signs you see outside churches in America. It went, “Faith sees God. Intellect does not.” Accurate and witty. I remembered it. That’s how this scribe sees it.
Having said that, at the encouragement of my ever compassionate, entirely trusting and kind-hearted ol’ Mum to accompany her, I found myself sat in front of one of Ireland’s most renowned psychics one evening a few months ago.

Having agreed on the reading and aware that it came at a princely cost, I decided to try and open my mind a little. Maybe I haven’t got it all figured out. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve heard many people raving about this guy, how he’s predicted deaths and illnesses around them and gave them lucidity on a lot of things.

Driving down there after work, with my mother doing some Oscar worthy acting in her role as ‘most-nervous-passenger-in-the-world’ for the trip, I will admit that there was a part of me hoping I’d be told something profound. Something insightful. Something that I might be kept awake pondering that night. Even just some form of reassurance that I’m making decent decisions. No such luck.

Of course, the client themselves play a huge part in defining how good these guys are. As far as I can make out, the majority of clients at this particular dude are middle-aged women, house and duty bound and crippled with regrets.

That was way harsh, Tai.

That was way harsh, Tai.

Point being that the best part of the people that go to see psychics go because they’re looking for some kind of emotional reassurance. They go hoping to emerge fulfilled, hopeful and enlightened. They go, so certain it will put their mind at ease, that when Mr. MoneyBalls tells them that he sees a wonderful future in store for them and that their dead dog wants them to know that he’s happy on the other side with Granny and Paws the cat, they lap it right up. I mean, he knew that Granny was dead! And you never told him! He must be legit!
Or perhaps he just clocked you coming in all positive and accepting, took in your age, your clothing, your immediate persona and he made some generic but fairly accurate conclusions about you. He sees health problems? Maybe you had a chest infection out last year. Death in the family? Perhaps your great-aunt died just before Christmas. Travel on the horizon? Who doesn’t have travel on the horizon these days?

Sitting in the dark room that night with the tatty old cards laid out on the table in front of me, I was determined to poker face my way through the session. He was gonna have to do this on his own.

He asked about the animosity on my father’s side of the family, wanted to know why there’s a separation there, why we don’t speak very often. I took a moment to correct my raised brow and duly told him that we were actually a very close-knit family and had, in fact, all been away together the weekend before. Not quite on top form there buddy. Go again.

“What about the recent death on your mother’s side of the family?” … “Well, my grandmother died 12 years ago.” Ouch. Strike two. It really wasn’t going all that incredibly well between myself and Mr. MoneyBalls here in his curtained cave. My inner cynic was utterly frothing at the mouth at the realisation that it had been right all along. The naïve, curious side of me, however, was a tad crushed in the knowledge that my life really was in my own clumsy hands.

With a mutual recognition that this reading was turning out to be far from the best show he’d ever done, he got a little more specific. He told me he saw travel in my future. Right. No shit Sherlock, but okay. Apparently Australia’s not for me but I’d really enjoy South America or Africa. He told me he saw marriage. Again, doesn’t take a genius, but all right, I’ll take it as a prediction. He wanted to know why I thought I wouldn’t have children. Fair play, you took a risk, thought maybe I looked like someone who didn’t have much time for kids. But FAIL nonetheless. He told me I’d always come back home and would end up settling within 30 minutes of where I currently live. Game over buddy. My definite (vague) and intended (hoped) life plan dictates otherwise.

I reckon that was about the time he gave up on me. He’d gotten it wrong so many times it almost seemed pointless to continue. I wasn’t buying it. He knew I wasn’t buying it. He told me to enjoy my travels and the session was brought to an abrupt and slightly awkward end with a shake of the hand and the exchange of what I’ve decided is a sufficient amount of money to justify scamming vulnerable, insecure housewives from across Ireland for a few hours in the evening during the week.

There’s a medium in the UK by the name of Derek Acorah. Some might know him from his work on ‘Most Haunted’ in which he became “possessed” by a spirit called Kreed Kafer. Kreed Kafer was subsequently exposed to be a total fabrication and a rather obvious anagram of the words ‘Derek Faker’. Clever. A while back I watched a documentary featuring Acorah. He was accused of being a fraud, cold-reading his clients, throwing out non-specific statements, gauging reactions and essentially just allowing people to make their own assumptions. He had hoards convinced. In reality it was all just years of honed fakery and showmanship. Acorah, of course, was enraged at the suggestion that he might be a liar and denied everything. But like, come on. I am, however, giving Derek one more shot at pursuading me. He has predicted that he will be involved in a plane crash between the UK and Canada in 2013. He reckons he’ll be one of three survivors and will consequently need a walking stick. So… Yeah… Look out for that news… I swear, if that happens I will eat your hat (I like mine)!

Derek Acorah

Derek Acorah

Anyways, feeling both disappointed at the lack of any kind of philosophical insight into my healthy, loss-lacking, socially acceptable life and decidedly smug at the confirmation that good old, time tested logic always prevails, we drove home, with me explaining to Mum exactly why I had deemed the man a fraudster, in between bursts of trying to reassure her that yes, I could see that the car in front of me was indicating and I wasn’t driving too fast.

Moral? I dunno really. Don’t go see a psychic. Instead, maybe just… get on with your life and quit being so darned scared of screwing it up. Be grand!

Here’s a link to the art of cold reading. Why not set up down the back of your local and charge innocent old ladies a fortune to come and be cheated? http://www.wikihow.com/Cold-Read

PS: In case you’re wondering, my eternally trusting mother’s reading turned out to be a much more insightful experience for her.