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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I hate drunks

I don't mind tipsy people. Or merry people.

I don't mind people who enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner.

I actively seek out the company of people who appreciate the virtues of a good whiskey.

I don't mind people who go out for a few pints once or twice a week.

I DO mind people who have destructive drinking habits, who cause rows or violence when drunk, who fail to accept that their drinking is problematic, who end up in A+E with self-inflicted injuries, who drink unhealthy volumes on an almost daily basis, often on their own.

I mind the arguments and hurt they cause, the vomit they produce, their unreasonability, the stink of alcohol on their breath, their red, rolling eyes, their slurred speech, their failure to see the harm their dysfunctional drinking causes.

If we were starting over with our drug laws, we'd probably ban alcohol. Which from my point of view would be sad, because I genuinely do appreciate a good whiskey, a fresh artisan beer, a carefully distilled gin, a finely matured wine.

But I think I'd actually accept prohibition of alcohol if I could be sure it would rid our world of 100% of arsehole drunks. It wouldn't of course, because prohibition doesn't work.

So I guess we're stuck with the drunks and their fucking up. Presumably they're all someones sons (or daughters.) Probably they were all decent skins once before their drinking got out of hand. Or maybe not.

I don't care. They're a pain in the arse and they are conduits of misery, spreading it like a cold in November among everyone else.

I fucking hate drunks.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Battlestar Galactica as modern theology

With the recent end of long-running sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica, many of the nerds were unhappy with the apparent theological conclusion to the space opera.

Moans of 'God did it! What a cop out!' seem to me to expose the huge gulf in understanding between those of a sci-fi (or scientific) bent and those of a more religious one.

One of the things I greatly appreciated about this fine TV show was its many attempts to incorporate difficult contemporary debates into its story arc.

It questioned the nature of democracy and its tendency towards demagoguery. It examined the legitimacy or otherwise of terrorist insurgency when under occupation. These were brave, maybe even dangerous discussions to hold in Dubya's America.

And by bringing them to the TV-consuming sheeple, one might even say that the producers and scriptwriters of BSG were serving a vital purpose in providing a platform for such essential debates in the US at that time.

But the element that intrigued me the most was how BSG, of all recent dramas, gave serious airtime to relative theologies.

The human contingent of the colonies were clearly depicted as polytheist, worshipping a Greco-Romanesque pantheon known as the 'Lords of Kobol.' They believed their Gods appeared, like the Roman and Greek pantheons, to be amoral, flawed and constantly interceding in their lives.

But in many ways, the classical names masked a more Eastern polytheism. From the Gayatri Mantra that was the show's theme music, it is clear that Hindu elements played a part too.

Seers, visions, prophecies all fulfilled important roles in the human theology, implying a much more Hindu vision of polytheism than the names Ares, Apollo and so on might indicate.

On the other side of the war, the Cylons were depicted as rigid monotheists, believing in a one true God. Their Abrahamic theology is particularly focused on predestination and fate, indicating a Calvinist or Jansenist vision of progression that is at odds with the concept of free will - which makes sense in the context of software for a brain.

Others have discerned elements of Mormonism in the show, while some have even posited the thought that the a la carte approach to belief systems presented in BSG could be a template for the future of religious faith in America.

And in its depiction of how women gathered around Gaius Baltar, the programme showed clearly how guru cults are formed, which is the point of origin for all religions we know today, be it an Abraham cult, a Jesus cult, or a Krishna, Buddha or Mohammed cult.

The ending of the series, however, resolved itself in a concept of human history as cyclical, requiring enlightenment of those involved in order to break a cycle of suffering, illusion and destruction.

This, in a nutshell, is the core belief of Buddhism. But even that Buddhist finale was undercut by a vision of angels on the streets of Manhattan, speculating about the amoral, Manichean nature of a solitary godhead.

The result is that the series offered a melange of theological positions, and gave each its own space to be considered in conjunction and in opposition to others.

It's rare these days to see such serious considerations of theology outside of factual documentaries featuring Michael Wood or the like. I for one welcome it.

I hope that one day someone qualified will produce some good academic research that teases out all of the relative theologies and their relationships with science and technology in this superlative TV show.

Some people have made initial attempts, and I suppose this post is mine.

In the meantime, perhaps it will have provoked pause for thought among its many viewers, who may not have been exposed, or taken seriously, other theological positions before. It's possible that the viewers may also take the same a la carte approach to religious beliefs as the authors of the show did while writing it.

I don't see that as anything other than positive. Exposing oneself to alternative beliefs is a creative and productive process, one that destroys sectarian interests and broadens the mind and one's conception of the universe.

And for the nerds who moaned about the presence of God in a fiction, I think they've missed the point and been blinded by their own blinkered attachment to the concept that science is atheistic.

It need not be, as recent research indicates.

I'm an atheist, but I loved the spirituality and relative theologies present in BSG. I hope the debates it raised will run in its viewers' minds long after the show is consigned to late-night satellite station re-runs.

PS: I claim 'Geek of the Week' for learning off the Gayatri Mantra as set to the music of the BSG soundtrack. Maybe that's enlightened of me, or maybe it's just sad. I dunno. But I do find it very soothing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Taoiseach has no clothes

I called the Gardai to ask, in the light of their raid on the offices of Today FM, how many man hours had so far been expended on investigating the non-crime of placing pictures in galleries.
They said they couldn't tell me because the investigation is 'ongoing'. I asked what crime they were investigating, and they said they were unable to tell me. Go figure!

This country gets more and more GUBU by the day.

Yesterday, it emerged that some genius had not only painted passable portraits of Brian Cowen in his birthday suit, but had also smuggled them into the National Gallery and the RHA gallery and then hung them on the walls!

As a form of peaceful protest, highlighting how Cowen is full of shit and how the emperor has no clothes, it was a fantastic act altogether and highly successful, given the media coverage it received.

You'd think those in power might note the message being conveyed. But no. Instead, they responded like the Soviet politburo of old, who brooked no criticism of the glorious leader no matter how mild.

The Gardai were called, and are seeking the guerrilla artist with the intent, no doubt, of sending him off to the gulag for 're-education.'

And now the national broadcaster has been forced by Zanu-FF to air a grovelling apology to the Taoiseach and his family (just how are they affected by a painting, may I ask?)

In reality, of course, it is Brian Cowen who should be apologising to everyone of us. Clearly there is no limit to the hubris, arrogance and puffed up self-importance of the government.

Perhaps they need more reminders that in fact they are not the statesmen they imagine in their heads, but are in fact a corrupt little cabal of one-time teachers, housewives, rural solicitors and the like who lucked out by either inheriting Daddy's rotten borough or else glad handing the right backers.

Some talented individual out there took time and effort to make a witty and genuine criticism of our political leaders and now the thought police are out searching for them while those in power seek to silence all such criticism.

If ever proof of the artist's thesis was required, that is it. They ARE full of shit. And the Emperor DOES have no clothes.

(And RTE remain the spineless lapdogs they always have been, needless to add.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Irish Whiskey Tasting Championships

This is what Mammy Skinner raised me for, I have no doubt.

Last night I achieved a podium finish in the Irish Whiskey Tasting Championships!

I came third, and won a nice bottle of Connemara Cask Strength which I suspect will get polished off by my better half.

This marks a modest but notable improvement on my respectable joint fourth finish in the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship last Summer.

Fair play to the lads at the Celtic Whiskey Shop for organising the event.

Hopefully one day the nascent Irish Whiskey Society will take over the reins of running the tasting competition, though.

There were some very interesting drams included in the tasting last night, which meant that everyone had a chance to taste something new to them.

I was especially pleased to try the now legendary Red Breast 15 year old again, and the sherried Connemara single cask.

Needless to say, my head hurts this morning!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy (Saint) Paddy's bingefest 09

Well, it seems the annual bingefest is upon us.

Soon, deluded Americans will stand, shivering, on O'Connell Street in Dublin, perplexed at a series of crap floats trundling by in the drizzle.

Later, locals decked out like leprechauns will commence binge drinking in earnest, while their teenage children pass out mid-afternoon from too many Smirnoff WKDs, or have sex in public.

Later again, very drunk people will urinate on each other, vomit on each other, punch each other until blood flows from each other.

Eventually, everyone will pass out, get up late for work the following day and limp in ruefully clutching a handful of paracetemol.

When did celebrating a Christian feast day become this horror show?

You'd think, well, the one positive element of this tawdry annual bacchanalia is that at least it can't get any worse. I've news for you. Sure, it can.

I heard the head of the 'St Patrick's Festival' on the radio yesterday morning. He's reportedly a very nice chap, Donal Sheils by name. He's only the front man for the event, so in a sense cannot be personally blamed for everything.

A priest rang in to complain, legitimately in my opinion and I'm an avowed atheist, that it was ridiculous that Christian themes were barred from the St Patrick's parade.

This festival bod Shiels then wittered on about how the 'festival' wasn't anything to do with a Christian saint - it was a 'celebration of the people and the country' and therefore couldn't have any narrow religious elements whatsoever.

Then he added - to my growing incredulity - that "there will be a float entitled 'City Fusion' in the parade, celebrating 20 different nationalities and 14 different religions will be represented on that."

So, in short: St Patrick's day is neither a day (it's a festival) nor is it anything to do with a Christian saint.

Instead, it's a secular inclusivist 'celebration' of Ireland and the Irish. Hmmm. But let's run with even that debased and state-enforced definition. If it's a celebration of Ireland and the Irish people, then what are they doing with a float with 20 nationalities on board from 14 different religions?

I couldn't care less for the annual bingefest. At it's best it was self-regarding kitsch, and at its very best it was self-regarding kitsch enacted by diaspora descendants in other places. After all, the first parades were in New York.

But as if the annual bingeathon wasn't bad enough, this multi-culti state-funded gobshitery that St Patrick's Day has been turned into is a classic of that odious genre - the public celebration designed by committee.

It represents neither me nor my nation, and consciously denies the feast's origins in Christianity. It is, in short, a state-enforced propaganda spectacle, aimed at proselytising a specific political ideology while seeking to destroy existing ones.

St Patrick's Day, in the hands of Donal Shiels and his paymasters, has become Ireland's Arirang - a thought-police spectacle:

The thought police ideology is, like all such ideologies, utterly simplistic:

Catholic Ireland - bad. Christian Ireland - bad. Irish Ireland - still bad.
But secular Ireland - good. Multicultural Ireland - very good.

Mention of celebrating Patrick's Christianising of Ireland is officially verboten. Instead, we're permitted only state-vetted Paddywhackery with an obligatory side dish of multiculturalism.

The irony is that when the Orla Barry radio show went onto the streets to ask people what the festival meant to them, not one of the foreign born respondents said it meant anything to them other than a reason to drink Guinness, perhaps.

I'm proud to be Irish - not all of the time, but most of the time. I'm proud of Ireland, again not all of the time, but most of the time. One of the times I'm ashamed to be both is on a day when we're told to ignore the origins of our culture and debase it into kitsch and alcohol.

Count me out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

All credit to the Rafa

Manchester United 1 - 4 Liverpool FC

Nuff said!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

UN prohibitionist website hacked

The UN office on Drugs and Crime, long run by notorious "Drugs are baaaad, mkay?" moron Antonio Costa, has had its website wonderfully hacked.

Before normal prohibitionist service is resumed, I thought I'd take a screengrab of their hacked jobs page for all to see and enjoy.

While it's still up, feel free to enjoy reading some sense about drugs policies on the UNODC's website for possibly the first time ever here.

But you better be quick. They'll be back to hiring shills to sell the world on prohibition very soon.

Congrats to the publicly minded IT wizards behind this splendid hack.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Football without the bollocks

Football without the divas.

Football without the multimillionaire brats smashing up Ferraris and getting arrested in nightclubs.

Football without the Beckham soap opera.

Football without the expensive flight abroad, mandatory overpriced two nights in craphole hotel and dreadful seats so high in the stadium you'd get a nosebleed.

Football without the fawning commentary from bitter ex-pros with vapid insights who missed out on the lottery cheque paydays.

Football without the mind-numbingly bland autobiographies, ghostwritten by anonymous sports hacks who don't get credited, that invariably feature a chapter on kicking a ball against a wall as a kid, a chapter on cleaning someone's boots, and a chapter on their debut game, but entirely gloss over the teen roastings, coke snortings, attacks on people in nightclubs, rows with t he trophy WAG in the mansion and six figure gambling debts.

Football without the bribed refs, fixed matches and corruption scandals.

Football without the Sky Sports network dictating the kick-off time.


Football with the passion, the skill, the talent, the excitement, the drama.

Football played by ordinary guys in your local area at a reasonable ticket price where you can get right up close to the pitch without remortgaging your house.

Football with heart, with soul, with community.

Football as it used to be and ought to be.

Welcome back, the League of Ireland. Go watch your local team this season.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Celtic Tiger disease

Image courtesy of The Community Voice.

I was listening to Start The Week tonight. (Well, it beats watching Prime Time, obviously.)

Epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson was on explaining how come a disease researcher like him ended up penning a book about why societies need to be more equal.

His book is top of my 'must buy and read' list already. But if I got him right, basically he was researching illness caused by lifestyle (stress, obesity and so on) and found it more prevalent in the most unequal societies, even if they were overall very affluent.

By contrast, more equal societies like Sweden have much lower levels of all these social and personal ills, despite having less disposable income overall.

Then he looked into things like violence, and found again that deeply unequal societies have the worst violence. What was really interesting was that he discovered that the very rich elites in these societies suffer too. Their wealth merely takes the edge off the risks.

He made the very good point that in such unequal societies - America, Britain, us, but also places like Singapore and Portugal, as well as the obvious African despotocracies - everyone suffers from status anxiety.

In other words, having the big car is no comfort because someone richer has a bigger car. And meanwhile, everyone works harder to earn the money which they then squander on such status symbols instead of using it usefully to develop their lives and society in a genuinely positive way.

Any of this sound familiar?

This goes to the core of the Celtic Tiger lie. The rising tide may well have lifted many of the boats (although you'll always meet plenty of people who it completely passed by.) But it didn't improve Irish society or make our lives more fulfilling and happier.

Instead it made us work harder to live in worse conditions (boxy apartments in dormitory estates miles from anywhere) in order to support the ostentatious consumption that was thrust forth as the be all and end all of our human existence.

Now that the Irish people are finally waking up from the nightmare, we can come to acknowledge that the squandering of the wealth we created wasn't just the fault of bankers, politicians and a golden circle, culpable though they all are.

We're all collectively responsible, and that can be seen in the fruits of our labour. The Celtic Tiger disease is best expressed by what we wasted our money on.

The rise of vacuous celebrity magazines, trumpeting the values of vapidity like the Beckhams or Jade Goody is possibly the most defining symptom of our collective disease.

So was the proliferation of bling, the pointless plumage of the self-obsessed. As were the overt penis-extensions like the big cars, the McMansions and the endless foreign holidays where people went to ever more exotic locales with the sole intent of boasting of it afterwards.

There is a cure for both this emptiness and for the deep social inequality that caused it. But that cure is currently a dirty word. Don't believe me? Listen to the shills scaremongering.

Let's start with a personal favourite, the Sunday Independent, mouthpiece of 'Sir' Tony O'Reilly, the man who got our gas and oil for nothing who now resides as a tax exile in Barbados and who closed Waterford Crystal, such is his commitment to our economy.

Here's his trustworthy senior journalist Jody Corcoran, a hack who previously excelled himself by accusing the late Liam Lawler of being with a prostitute when he died in a Moscow car crash (the poor woman was his interpreter.)

According to Jody, there is a battle for the hearts and minds of Ireland, and our Jody fears - gulp - that the battle may already be lost. Apparently the future of Ireland is socialism.

Yup, the S word. The word that the neo-cons successfully, and utterly inaccurately, linked so directly to Soviet gulags and Stalinist purges, to Mao's mayhem and famine and death, that even socialists themselves rapidly felt the need to rebrand as social democrats all over the world.

The word that Bertie Ahern once risibly sought to claim.

Socialism, the big boogyman, the dangerous ideology that would destroy our society.

How did we not see this 'reds under the bed' nonsense for what it is the SECOND time they played us with it? The truth is that it was the exact opposite of socialism, the inane, greed-driven inequity at the heart of neo-conservatism that destroyed what was good about Ireland.

I hope Corcoran is right (that's possibly a first for me.) I hope the future of Ireland IS socialism and for one very simple reason - we already tried the alternative he and his ex-pat billionaire employer espouse, and it's brought us to the brink of destruction.

We've destroyed our social cohesion, squandered our wealth and bankrupted our nation, while simultaneously abandoning the sickest in society to the vicissitudes of Harney's marketplace, and beggaring our young families on lifetime long mortgages for piss-poor accommodation.

Don't let the very people who beggared you, who stole your healthcare and social services, who sold you on extreme debt to fund crap you don't need that enriched only their already obscene bank balances - don't let them scare you any more.

The only way out of our current crisis is to recognise it for what it is, and wake up from the nightmare we sleepwalked into. The way out is to build a more equal society. The way out is to adopt the one political vision that this country has never tried in its entire history.

The disease, as Dr Wilkinson rightly diagnoses, is that we replaced a slightly unequal society with a desperately acutely unequal one.

The cure for that inequality is socialism.