Category Archives: Ireland

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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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.