Archive for February, 2008

Call hating

February 29th, 2008

I hate call waiting.

I don’t use it.

I don’t like it when other people use it.

When you use call waiting, you are effectively saying to the other person:

Someone else wants to talk to me, I have no idea who they are or what they want, but chances are they are more important and more interesting than you.

In my opinion there is only one response to someone who puts you on hold because of call waiting… hang up.

We are Americans!

February 27th, 2008

I’m studying a bit of Italian at the moment in preparation for going there on holiday in May. The chapter about hotels made me laugh out loud.

Mr. Smith and his family arrive in Italy and go to a hotel. They ask for a room, explaining that they don’t have a reservation. They are told it’s impossible because the hotel is very full (molto pieno), at which point Mr. Smith replies: “We are Americans!”

OK, so I added the exclamation mark for dramatic effect.

Anyway, on hearing this extra bit of information, the receptionist realises that the hotel isn’t that full after all and they can squeeze in an American family. OK, so I added the italics for dramatic effect.

What made me laugh was that in my experience of travelling around Europe and talking to Americans travelling around Europe is that the receptionist’s response would more likely have been something to the effect of directing Mr. Smith to engage in intimate relations with his own rectum. But the book was written for an American audience.

My advice to any of my American friends (Yes, I have American friends. So what?) when visiting Europe is not to preface everything with “We are Americans.” It’s not your being American that irritates people (Well, OK, it does, but only a little bit), it’s that phrase. As far as you are concerned, you are simply providing a piece of information that clearly indicates you are not from around here, but what a European hears is: “We are Americans and we expect that to make a difference in how you treat us!” Kind of a modern-day “CIVIS ROMANUS SUM!”

It does make a difference, but not usually in a good way.

If any of my American friends are reading this, Americans really do preface things with “We are Americans” when they are in Europe. The most common American phrase abroad is: “We are Americans. Can you tell us where the nearest McDonald’s is?” Then again, I’ve met Americans in America and I suspect you only send your weirdoes abroad on holiday (that’s vacation to you).

Still, I can understand why Europeans often feel antipathy towards American visitors. After all, they did invade Poland and lay waste to most of Europe for six years.

Oh, wait. That was the Germans.

The Great Shopping Divide

February 22nd, 2008

Further evidence as to why men and women should not go shopping together.

The scene:
Interior: a general household supplies store, daytime.

She
I can’t make up my mind whether to get the feather and down duvet or the one with the artificial filling. What do you think?

He
What is it you are looking for?

She
Well, feather ones are supposed to be better quality.

He
“Better” in what sense?

She
What do you mean?

He
Well, what are the advantages of the feather ones?

She
They’re more luxurious.

He
But in what sense?

She
[Nonplussed]

He
Well, what are the key characteristics you are looking for? Tog? Both types have equal tog. Size? Both types are the same size.
[Turns to the sales assistant]
What are the advantages of the feather duvets?

Sales Assistant
Well, they are more luxurious.

She
Surely they’d be softer against your skin.

He
But they are inside a duvet which is inside a duvet cover, so what difference would the filling make to your skin? Look, it seems to me that the only difference is that the feather ones are a lot more expensive and they are heavier. Personally, I prefer a lighter duvet as long as it’s just as warm.

She
But you use a feather duvet now.

He
You didn’t ask me whether I want to keep the duvet I have now. You asked me which one you should buy. All I’m trying to do is understand what it is you need.

She
Look, forget it.

He
[Nonplussed]
I never learn. Should have stayed in the car.
[Walks away]
Ooh, an automatic coin sorter!

Diego Garcia

February 21st, 2008

The British Government has issued an apology over the fact that US “rendition” flights landed for refuelling at a US Navy base on British territory.

The territory in question is the atoll of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Britain certainly does owe an apology… to the former residents of that atoll, the Chagosians, who were forcibly expelled from the island by Britain so that the USA could have a military base there.

These are the two countries that spout on so much about freedom and terror and human rights.

If you search YouTube for “Diego Garcia”, you’ll mostly get video clips from US military personnel raving about what a great place it is. More a holiday than a posting, really.

However, the following are the links you should be looking for. They are from an excellent documentary by journalist John Pilger.

Stealing a Nation: 1 of 6
Stealing a Nation: 2 of 6
Stealing a Nation: 3 of 6
Stealing a Nation: 4 of 6
Stealing a Nation: 5 of 6
Stealing a Nation: 6 of 6

Despite High Court rulings in favour of the Chagosian people, successive British governments, including the current one, have denied them the right to return home.

Rule Britannia and God bless America.

Still, this hasn’t happened because Britain and the USA are involved. It has happened because politicians are involved. That’s politics for you. It attracts scumbags. I’m quite sure The Irish government would have done the same. After all, they betrayed Ireland’s neutrality by letting US military aircraft on their way to Iraq refuel on Irish soil.

Do as Bertie says, not as Bertie does

February 15th, 2008

I am not proud to be Irish.

I am pleased to be Irish, but I am not proud. It is an accident of my provenance that I am Irish. I didn’t go away and work or study to become Irish, I just am. So I have no right to be proud. It’s not something I achieved.

However, I often feel a sense of pride when I see my compatriots achieving something. I’m trying to think of an example… Oh, yes! Like our Taoiseach (Prime Minister) being the highest paid leader in Europe.

What a glow it brings to my heart! Those other gobshites… call themselves leaders? Look at Angela Merkel… Prime Minister of eighty million people… I bet she has to bum bus fare off Bertie at EU meetings. Our Bertie has managed €310,000 out of just four and quarter million people. And to think he only started off ten years ago with a salary of €112,000.

Now there’s a man with drive and a keen understanding of economics. Not many people out there could figure out a way to get €310,000 out of so few people. Genius!

Now all those mangy gits out there doing useless jobs like… I don’t know… nursing and policing and firefighting and ambulancing and crap like that… they all want a piece of Bertie’s well-earned pie.

Bertie says those people will just have to have realistic expectations.

Those gobshites clearly don’t get it… after paying Bertie, there’s fuck all left.

‘More migrants needed’ for curry

February 13th, 2008

‘More migrants needed’ for curry

In many countries, Ireland among them, some people are complaining about the number of migrant workers. My own opinion is that if they are there and they are actually working, then they are probably doing jobs that no one else wants to do.

Still, in Britain, to judge by the headline above, they have found a unique solution.

A CURRY HOUSE, SOMEWHERE IN BRITAIN

Customer:
I’ll have a behari kebab to start, some naan bread and a lamb curry.

 

Waiter:
I’m afraid we have no more lamb, sir.

 

Customer:
What else have you got?

 

Waiter:
We have beef curry, chicken curry, king prawn curry, migrant curry and tim curry.

 

Customer:
Tim curry doesn’t agree with me…
[scans the menu]
I’ll have the migrant curry.

 

Waiter:
Certainly, sir. This evening we have Czech, Pole and Lithuanian.

 

Customer:
I’ll have the Czech, please.
[drunken grin]
Geddit? “Czech, please!”

 

Waiter:
Very droll, sir. And to drink?

 

Customer:
I’ll have a Cobra. That’s the best one.

 

Tim Curry:
[sitting at the next table]
No, it isn’t.

Update: The sneaky gits at the BBC have changed the headline since this morning to Curry houses ‘need more migrants’. They must have read this post.

Six words

February 11th, 2008

Inspired by Ernest Hemingway, Smith Magazine has a writing project called “NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING” in which people are invited to tell a story in exactly six words. Click on the link above to get the details and Hemingway’s original.

My entry is:

No hair. No cancer. No worries.

In case you’re wondering, I have not had cancer. That’s the point. I used to worry about losing my hair (until I shaved it off and found I have a head that’s close to perfect), but at least I have never had cancer. No worries.

Thanks to Jonathan for pointing out the Smith site to me. Have a go yourself. If you do, though, make sure you also add your six words to the comments here.

Dear God…

February 8th, 2008

I’m confused.

In Genesis 2:17 You tell Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”.

That’s grand.

Not to interpret that, but to take it literally, that means You didn’t want A & E to know the difference between good and evil.

Which means they didn’t already know the difference between good and evil.

Which means they didn’t know that disobeying You was evil. After all, You made them that naïve.

So if they didn’t know disobeying You was evil, why did You get so pissed off at them when they did eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

(The priest who taught me logic at university must hate me now)

Do not pass Go

February 7th, 2008

There have been scandals about paedophilia among priests in the Catholic Church for some time now and I personally know people who were victims of such abuse.

Ireland has not escaped such scandals and there are on-going enquiries. The latest twist in the scandal is that Cardinal Desmond Connell is seeking to prevent the release of certain documents to the enquiry. On the face of it, his motives are fair enough. It seems he wants to maintain the privacy of victims and priests accused (but unconvicted) of abuse. Incidentally, Michael Nugent has an excellent post here which illustrates the magnitude of the issue in the Dublin Archdiocese alone.

The thing that struck me as odd is that Cardinal Connell is reported to be willing to go to prison to protect the people named in those documents. Surely the ones going to prison should be the guilty, paedophile, rapist priests and anyone in the Church who sought to cover up their crimes by simply transferring them to other parishes instead of reporting them to the police?

It’s a topsy-turvy world where the people who spend so much of their time preaching to everyone else about sexual morality are embroiled not just in a sexual scandal, but in a criminal one of the vilest nature.

Luke 17:2
It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

What is racism?

February 6th, 2008

I have been pondering this question ever since that dreadful piece of voyeuristic garbage Big Brother raised the Jade Goody / Danielle Lloyd / Shilpa Shetti controversy in 2007.

The Cambridge Dictionary definition of racism is the following: “The belief that people’s qualities are influenced by their race and that the members of other races are not as good as the members of your own, or the resulting unfair treatment of members of other races.”

The Merriam Webster definition is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

Personally, I prefer the Cambridge definition because it addresses behaviour and not just belief. To my mind, it’s not enough to have racist beliefs to truly be a racist, one has to act accordingly. In a sense, one could argue that a person who harbours racist beliefs but who refuses to put them into action is to be admired.

So what kind of action or behaviour consitutes racism?

I feel it’s all too easy to confuse bullying and racism. I don’t believe it’s racist to call someone names based on their ethnicity or the colour of their skin. Sure enough, racists are often bullies, but not all bullies are racists. I am fully entitled to this opinion, being half Caucasian and half Asian. As a child, I lived in rural Ireland where anyone darker than the background to this web page really stood out. I was called everything… blackie, nigger, nig nog, Chink (bizarrely). Oddly enough, I don’t ever remember being called “wog”, which my very dark father would say stands for “Worthy Oriental Gentleman”.

But that wasn’t racism. I was just being picked out by bullies because I stood out in some way. I was being isolated. The same would have happened if I had been white but with green hair.

Spanish sports fans have been known to hurl abuse at athletes on the basis of their ethnic origins. Making ape-like gestures and wearing black make-up are some examples. However, many in Spain regard this behaviour simply as tasteless and abhorrent, but not actually racist. I agree. I don’t see why there should be a distinction between abuse and racial abuse. It’s not that I think racial abuse isn’t that bad (remember, I put up with it for a long time… strangely until learned to fight). I think abuse is bad… full stop. I think shouting “Bastard!” at someone is just as bad as shouting “Black/White/Pikey/Paki/Fenian bastard!” Though not all at once, I imagine (not meaning to ignore anyone out there who is part black, white, traveller, Pakistani and Irish). Hmmm… if I went to Glasgow and met a black Rangers fan, he might call me a “Honky, Wog, Fenian bastard!”

Is it racist to label an entire ethnic group in a particular way? I suspect many would be tempted to say that it is.

But what if I label an entire ethnic group as follows? “Those XXX are very hardworking and capable.”

Is that any different from saying about another ethnic group “Those YYY are lazy and unreliable” ?

I would argue that it isn’t if both are the result of real-world observation and experience. This isn’t simply an academic exercise. These days in Ireland there are people of many ethnic groups living and working. Some have developed a reputation for hard work while others have developed a reputation for laziness. Is it racist to observe that members of a certain group tend to be lazy? No, it’s human nature.

For me, it is racist when you harm someone because of their ethnicity, or you deny them equal rights because of their ethnicity. I am reminded of an anecdote from years ago when a conference on racism was being held in one of the Dublin 4 hotels; a representative of the Traveller community was denied entry by the doorman. Ironic racism, the very best kind!

I also remember an incident when a friend of mine, who was a school teacher (but is now a stuntman – go figure that one out), and I were walking up O’Connell Street and we came across a student of his who happened to be from Africa. The lad was distraught because some guy had been giving him abuse further up the street. We accompanied him to investigate and the gentleman in question proceeded to attack the boy with a six foot iron bar. Now that’s racism. Be at ease, dear ballogees, my friend and I disarmed the miscreant and handed him over to the Guards. No children were harmed in the making of this anecdote.

I don’t envy the employer in Ireland who is faced with two candidates, one from a generally perceived hard-working ethnic group and one from a generally perceived lazy group. That would test the integrity of the most inclusive of minds.

I feel an interviewer should be blind to a person’s ethnicity during the recruitment process, regardless of what the generally held opinion is. If the candidate is hired and turns out to be lazy as an individual, then steps should be taken to fire that person.

However, I am pretty certain that many people in Ireland would tolerate a lazy worker from an ethnic minority for fear of being labelled racist. But not firing a useless worker because of their ethnicity is, perversely, racism in another form.

I’m keen to hear what Rowan Manahan has to say about that.

I’ll finish with an odd twist. I know a fellow in Dublin who is a skilled tradesman. Recently he went about finding himself a new piece of work and saw a sign on one site that stated: “No Irish” (I am hoping to obtain a photo of that particular sign). Prejudice against the Irish in Ireland. Where else would that happen? It raises an interesting question: In multi-cultural Ireland, are the Irish perceived as lazy?

I’m also keen to hear what Irish bloggers Michael Nugent and Twenty Major have to say on the subject.

Some related, external articles:

Anger at ‘lazy’ Roma remarks

Black Africans most likely to suffer racism in Ireland

Racism in Ireland – TRAVELLERS FIGHTING BACK

Poles in Ireland don’t want to be slaves

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