Monday, February 21, 2011


Honestly I don’t know whether to be amused or afraid. The Internet, we know, is at the centre of the average person’s universe (more so the younger they are.) The Internet, we know, is the harbinger of the downfall of the printed newspaper. The Internet, we are told, is crippling the entertainment industry by way of illegal downloads. And now, finally (Amazingly? Ridiculously? Terrifyingly?), the Internet is toppling Governments. But not in the manner I would have imagined.
I would have assumed that Wikileaks, with its back catalogue of classified information, its doomsday file, and its secret underground bunker (seriously! It’s where they keep their servers!), would be the righteous strong arm of the Internet, smashing corrupt, lying governments that had kept dirty, dirty secrets from the world and their own citizens for so very long. Hell, I guess even those same Governments are thinking along the same lines, judging by Julian Assange’s current legal trouble. But no, threatening as it appears, menacing as its agenda is, Wikileaks has been beaten to the punch as far as regime-toppling goes.

By Facebook.

Or at least, that’s what Egypt’s shiny new military junta thinks. Which is why they now have their own Facebook page. Seriously. As the Telegraph reports, the page has been created at the behest of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and dedicated “to the sons and youths of Egypt who ignited the January 25th Revolution and to its martyrs.” The Egyptian military, and by extension the Council, are extremely popular in Egypt for their sufferance of the protests (All the blame at civil servant level having been shifted to the nasty oppressive police). Given the events of January in Egypt, and, in fairness, the tangible role of social media sites in providing a means to co-ordinate protest, (Hell, Mubarak turned off the damned Internet in the entire country! He certainly seemed to think it was a threat.) , one can begin to understand the Council’s reasoning behind this move.
But let’s just play a game here for a minute. We’ll call it “Juxtaposition”. In this game we’re going to juxtapose two words. Let’s go with “Facebook”, and… oh, how about “Supreme Council of the Armed Forces”?  Now can you honestly say that that isn’t so weird as to be unsettling? Can you imagine getting a friend request from that page? “Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi (Head of the aforementioned Council) wants to be friends!” Do you accept? What if you don’t accept? Then you’ve just rejected the Head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces! You know there will be backlash. You might end up joining the hundreds of people Human Rights groups claim are still ‘missing’ in the wake of the uprising. Amnesty International claim the military is torturing (with whips and electric shocks) those they have detained.
That explains why you got that friend request. Field Marshal Tantawi saw those photos you were tagged in from that S&M party. Oh Balls!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spare some Change for a Pint?

As I sit at my desk, sipping my ridiculously sugared coffee and perusing the morning papers (12.15 is still morning on a Sunday!), I’ve come across an interesting little piece from Pat Fitzpatrick in the Indo (or perhaps it’s the Endo, judging by their front page complimentary handjob for the potential taoiseach/hide and seek champion from Mayo).
It’s a short, witty little dig at Fianna Fail, calling on the now almost (hopefully) defunct party to just go nuts in its manifesto and promise us holiday homes on the moon, or whatever. Tickled my funny bone anyway, that is until I got to the actual (single) fact that Fitzpatrick had based the piece around. On page 21 of Fianna Fail’s manifesto, in the tourism section, lies a proposal to make St. Patrick’s Festival Week into St. Patrick’s Festival Fortnight. God Help us all.
Putting aside the fact that this is obviously cheap political bullshit, thrown in because, “Why the Hell not? The party mightn’t exist in a month’s time!” Let’s look at the actual implications of such a proposal. In 1903 St. Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday in Ireland, thanks to one MP James O’Mara. Ironically, MP O’Mara later managed to introduce legislation that closed pubs on March 17th, after people began ruining his shiny new public holiday by getting thoroughly blotto.
What’s that you say? Pubs closed by law on St. Patrick’s Day? I can already here some of you laughing derisively “That didn’t last very long. Hur-Hur!” Actually, it lasted about 60years; O’Mara’s legislation was only repealed in the 1970s. I wonder who was big in politics in 70’s Ireland? (cough-Haughey-cough). Certainly, if we consider that Fianna Fail spent the middle years of the 70s in Opposition (1973-77), no doubt trying desperately to claw their way back into the driving seat (as they are wont to do: “Free Fees, Free Medical Cards, Free Everything!”), it would be no stretch of the imagination that such a meaningless, populist political stunt could be part of one of their election manifestos. Just like we have something similar now.
In the 1990s, its was decided that St.Patrick’s Day was too damned popular internationally (and too damned profitable in terms of tourism) to be limited to just one day. So the Government (which was the Rainbow Coalition at the time) decided to add an extra day to the 1996 St.Patrick’s Day celebration. Their excuse was that by extending and improving our premier national celebration, we could:
— Offer a national festival that ranks amongst all of the greatest celebrations in the world and promote excitement throughout Ireland via innovation, creativity, grassroots involvement, and marketing activity.
— Provide the opportunity and motivation for people of Irish descent, (and those who sometimes wish they were Irish) to attend and join in the imaginative and expressive celebrations.
— Project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal, as we approach the new millennium.
Sounds so innocent and well-meaning, doesn’t it? Bless their cotton socks; they had no idea the can of worms they were opening. In 1997, the Boys were back in Town, led by B-b-b-Bertie, our former Finance Minister without a bank account. The Festival got another day, because Fianna Fail couldn't allow themselves to be outdone by that bunch of stuff-shirts in the Coalition. Not this Fianna Fail Government anyway. Not with its happy-go-lucky, man-of-the-people Taoiseach, oh no!
By 2000, the Festival was 4 days long. By 2006 (Celtic Tiger roaring baby, Whooah!), the Festival peaked at 5 Days. Now Fianna Fail, in what is clearly an attempt to scrape up some popularity with the average punter, are suggesting we make it a fortnight. Shine on you crazy diamonds!
But seriously, have I gone all Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, or am I seeing a pattern forming here? The 1970s, Fianna Fail out of Government for the middle years of the decade, pubs reopened on St. Patrick’s Day. The 1990s, Fianna Fail out of Government for the middle years of the decade, St. Patrick’s Day becomes a festival, and begins to grow. Now the nation is staring down the barrel of the twenty-teens (for want of a better work to describe them), with the middle years of this decade almost certainly seeing Fianna Fail out of Government. And part of their re-election manifesto is to make the St. Patrick’s Festival even longer? Déjà vu anyone?
Now don’t get me wrong, while I’m not exactly a rabid patriot, I do enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, and I do get somewhat inebriated. But that’s on the day. While I recognise that the St. Patrick’s Festival is a gimmick to attract tourists, I worry a little bit about how, in these economically depressed times, society will cope with a week-long festival that for the vast majority of people (that is, non-tourists) is solely an excuse to binge drink for the weekend, and recover for the rest of the week. How will another week affect this? Not positively, I wager.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Google = Skynet (?)

So I'm becoming somewhat concerned about the fact that Google appears to be EVERYWHERE on the internet now. Half the things I've tried to sign up for recently prompt me to sync up with my gmail account. When I was attempting to set up a Youtube account for my dear mother, I was informed that signing up for gmail was in fact obligatory if she wanted to be able to use the 'Favourite' function. W.T.F.? I mean I know Google own Youtube, but really, that's a bit harsh. Next thing you know, Sky wont let you buy the channel packages without signing up for their internet package aswell.
Actually, now that I think on it, Our internet here in Maynooth is Vodafone, and they demanded that we sign up for a Vodafone landline account before they'd give us internet. U.P.C. never did that. I miss U.P.C. Huge disappointment ensued when we realised we couldn't get it in this estate.
Next, Google will probably buy Sky, and then we'll have to link our t.v. channels to our gmail accounts. Then they'll buy Tesco, and we'll all have to link our groceries to our gmail accounts. Further and further we'll travel down the rabbit hole, closer and closer to some awful Google singularity, and there isn't any messianic John Connors figure to save us all.
Or is there, Julian Assange?

Blog the First

So here we are, deep in the nether regions of the Internets, the habitat of that curious creature; the Blog. In an effort to actually get some practice writing, generously leavened with a sense of "ah sure, why not", I've decided to set forth and explore this mysterious realm, and in turn become a part of it.
Everyone's a critic, so the saying goes, and really, everyone does like to think their opinion is important. I'm man enough to admit I'm not really any different from the rest of my web-surfing, blog-happy generation, so, on an irregular, nigh-on sporadic basis, I'll offer up my own opinions to the Gods of the Omniweb (and everyone else too). All responses welcome, even the harsh ones.
Everyone likes to offer their two cents in any given conversation. I am by no means an exception to this rule, but I do love to talk (at length), so it might come to a bit more than two cents. A veritable fistful of coins, if you will. My intellectual Spare Change.