Sunday, October 27, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.

Legally blonde

I don't like Romany gypsies. My dislike of this ethnic group stems from personal experience and I have now reached the point where I routinely tar each and every one of them with the same brush. And many in this country share my opinion, not to mention other countries. In an attempt to develop a deeper understanding of the Romany people I have looked into their heritage and discovered how they came to be one of Europe's most disliked tribes. But it still didn't change my opinion on them nor, in my eyes, justify their behaviour on these shores. However in spite of my antipathy towards them it's hard to argue in favour of our law enforcers when discussing recent events.

In the wake of the suspected kidnapping of a blonde, blue-eyed girl by a Romany family in Greece the Irish authorities acted upon on a tip-off from a concerned citizen. They were informed that a similarly fair-haired child was living with a Roma family in Dublin and acted as they saw fit. What this meant was taking the child from it's family and bringing it to the hospital for DNA tests. But now before documents were requested, produced and then subsequently deemed insufficient. There was no indication that the child had been mistreated by it's guardians - no bruises, no signs of malnutrition - just a confused 7 year old being dragged away from it's mother and father.

And in Athlone it was a similar story, a two-year old boy spending the night away from his family while they fretted and worried for his safety. But it's easy to be wise after the event you say. And you'd be right. If these children had turned out to the victims of kidnapping we would be praising the actions of all those involved, those who had tipped off the guards would be solemnly brought forth to be showered in confetti and Enda Kenny's mug would be smiling out at us from every TV screen. But these children weren't abducted and there was never anything to suggest they were – other than the colour of their hair.

As it turned out the child in Greece was not the daughter of the man of woman she lived with, but she hadn't been kidnapped either. Her mother, unable to support a child, had given her away to the people she now lived with. And we thought our police had problems? Try sorting that one out. In truth you have to give credit to whomever alerted our Gardaí to the presence of these seemingly out of place children. Such vigilance may have saved the lives of several children over the years and I sincerely hope that the disastrous consequences of both cases doesn't deter further concerned citizens from following suit.

But would those people have been so quick to alert the cops if they had, for instance, spotted a black child getting into an SUV with a well-heeled, prosperous family? Highly unlikely. Through a combination of saturated media coverage and our own in-built prejudices we were led to believe that Romany gypsies kidnapped blonde, blue-eyed children as a matter of course. It's something they'd do, we thought, I'd put nothing past them bastards, we said. And now, thanks to our racism – and that's what we are, racists, myself included – two young children have been scarred for life. 

Walking away quietly

When Sir Alex Ferguson vacated the manager's job at Old Trafford he vowed to learn from the mistakes of the past. It wouldn't be like before, when Sir Matt Busby retired from the same post but never really left. Unlike his fellow Glaswegian Fergie would not linger around the club, casting a shadow over his successor and ultimately undermining him, instead he'd take a back seat and allow the new man to get on with the job. Well so much for that. He's been true to his word in so much that he hasn't been knocking around the corridors of the stadium offering advice to his former charges, but he's hardly kept himself to himself now has he?

All I have to ask Sir Alex is why? Why release a book at such a delicate time for the club? Why use it to open up old wounds with ex-players? Why not use this platform to open the lid on things the fans really want to know about? Like the Glazers, or J.P McManus and that infamous horse spunk. Sadly the answer to all of these questions is relatively simple: money. It can't be anything else, he's spent a career in the spotlight and has had numerous opportunities to lambast Roy Keane, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard or any of the others he's taken to task in his second autobiography. His only motivation for doing so now is to ensure the book sells well.

It's made this great man - arguably the finest football manager of all time - seem quite small and petty, childish almost. Taking cheap digs in a public forum where there's no chance of reprisal was never his way. One of his most admirable traits as a manager was his loyalty to his players, even after the most shambolic of performances he would never criticise them, at least not openly. You can be sure they felt the full wrath of his tongue once he returned to the sanctity of the dressing room, but in front of TV camera? Never. Now it's taken him a matter of months to do a volte face.

I'll always love Sir Alex for what he's done for United, but not for the first time I find myself questioning his actions away from the pitch. He has always been fond of recounting tales of his tough upbringing in Govan, the rough and ready working-class district in which he grew up. He has spoken at length about how this environment instilled in him the morals and principles required to survive, and excel, at the very top of his field. But where are those morals and principles now? Where were they when this self-confessed socialist conveniently ignored all he believed and jumped into bed with the Glazers? It would appear that Fergie has learned all too much from his newly found American pals, he has learned that in this life only one thing talks, and that thing is money. Money, money, money.

An institute you can't disparage

I'm not usually one for stats but these figures speak louder than any rumination on my part ever could: 49% of unmarried women between the ages of 18-34 in Japan are not in any kind of romantic relationship, that number rises to 61% when examining their male counterparts in the same age. But that's not all, a third of Japanese people under the age of 30 have never dated at all. But wait, there's more: 45% of Japanese women between the ages of 18-24 are “not interested in or despise sexual contact” and a quarter of men feel the same way. As a result of this aversion to a bit of jiggerypokery the population of the country has plunged and is expected to drop by a further third by 2060.

I don't need to tell you that this doesn't bode well for one of the traditional super-powers of the Far East. Their economy has been stagnant since before the days of our current global recession and fewer people quite naturally leads to a certain amount of downsizing across the board. But the big question is why aren't Japanese people having it off anymore? There doesn't appear to be any definitive answer but several theories have been aired. Unlike the westernised world it is still very much the norm to form a conventional family, ie; Daddy goes to work while Mammy stays at home and minds the kids. Becoming a single-mother or even having a child out of wedlock is very much frowned upon in Japanese society.

Others cite this 'celibacy syndrome' as a symptom of recent national disasters; 2011's earthquake, tsunami and radioactive meltdown chief among them. Why run the risk of procreating when the entire country could go up in smoke any minute? Most interesting is the assertion that the Japanese obsession with all things technological has led to it's young peoples inability to form meaningful, loving connections. This for me is the most salient argument, we're constantly being warned about the dangers of living your life online and it's effect on our capacity to interact with real-life human beings, and now here's the proof!

So what can the Japanese do? How can they redress the balance and get their repressed youth fucking again? I have an idea. They need to recreate something that was a rite of passage for virtually every child growing up in Ireland over the past fifty years: the teenage disco. Monitored by a handful of responsible adults - preferably parents of some of those attending – the disco will promise good clean fun for all those present. Upon arrive you're corralled to your section, boys on one side girls on the other. Then the music starts, something soft and slow a bit of Barry Manilow perhaps, and the couplings begin. It worked for us and we were some of the most shy, awkward and self-conscious feckers to ever draw breath. And look at us now! Take note Japan.

I'd plant a grenade for you

The thought of marriage can be terrifying for a lot of men. It signals many things, the end of their freedom, the start of a life of drudgery, finally having someone to do your cooking and cleaning - and oh yeah their love for a woman or something like that. But you can't escape the inevitable, eventually they will wear you down until you're standing in the church, looking at a priest and thinking “what the fuck am I doing here?” There have been cases where the condemned has wriggled free though, we've all heard tales of the fella who did a runner to the Bahamas; leaving nothing behind but a sobbing bride and her vengeful father.

But now there's a new way of getting out of it, a quick and easy method which allows you to swap a life sentence for a relatively shorter one. Neil McArdle was just like all the rest of us, railroaded into a coupling of which he wanted no part. In an act of true chivalry he conveniently forgot to fill out the relevant forms required to seal his fate: marriage to a Miss Amy Williams. This wasn't enough for Neil though, he had to make sure he'd fucked things up. So instead of telling Amy that he'd botched the paperwork and their big day would have to be postponed he decided to ring the Registry Office and tell them there was a bomb on the premises. That's the spirit Neil she definitely won't want you after this!

And his ingenious plan worked, the wedding was called off and his skin was saved; back to nights out with the lads and the occasional sleepover at her's. Not quite. The call to the registry office was traced and silly ole Neil was charged with communicating with false intent, or in layman's terms 'frightening the shit out of folk for no good reason'. Neil's punishment? A year in prison, now every night will be a night with the lads. But hey at least he doesn't have to worry about getting married anymore. If only. Amy is going to stand by her man, she is still determined to be a bride, his bride, and when he finishes his stint in the clink he won't be a free man for very long.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.

Salt in the wounds

I was going to talk about the Budget this week. I was going to talk about the drastic cuts to social welfare for those aged 25 and under. I was going to talk about the thousands of old-age pensioners who will have their medical cards taken away. And I was going to talk about how thankless a task it is for Michael Noonan to implement these measures without alienating virtually every section of society. But at this stage, just a few days after the budget cuts were announced, I think we're all sick to the back teeth of talking about it.

It started about two weeks ago; the financial experts and economists were drafted in for their views on how we were to claw back some of our debt this year. And as the day drew ever closer more and more air time was allocated to these analysts and gurus. This isn't so much of a problem if you're tuning into the six one news for your daily bulletin, but when you like to have the radio on as background noise at all times and your station of choice is Newstalk....don't even get me started. It's bad enough waiting to hear who'll be hit hardest without round the clock scaremongering from one of the country's most reputable news outlets.

On budget day itself I shied away from all forms of media, my reasoning being that it was better to receive the bad news in one unhealthy dollop rather than subject myself to death by a thousand cuts as each reduction was announced. By the end of that evening I had digested the news and stopped to ponder what it would mean for me and those closest to me. And yet the next morning as I still processed this information I had it all thrown back in my face again. We'd had two weeks of build up, minute-by-minute updates and now it seemed we were going to be subjected to some post-match analysis. On and on they droned, drafting in the views of those most affected to embellish their points. It was relentless, and ultimately soul-destroying.

And it continued into the next day, the same thing over and over again. No fresh angles, just wall-to-wall misery. Luckily by the grace of God the weekend came to interrupt them or we would never have escaped. I'm all for hard-hitting news items which dissect the issues of the day but does anyone else feel like this is overkill? We know the country is fucked, we know we're all broke and we know what the outcome of the budget was: don't keep going on about it! Maybe I'm part of the problem, a typical Irish person who would rather bury their hand in the sand than address the topic. But I'm also a realist, and I realise that sitting around talking about things isn't going to help. All it will do is heap further misery upon an already disconsolate nation.

Everyone's a winner baby

Are any of you talented enough to have a segment of your parent's living-room dedicated to your exploits? You know the kind of thing I'm talking about, that glass cabinet filled with cheap, plastic trophies. These trinkets might not have possess much fiscal value but to your Mammy they're worth more than the Champion's League trophy itself. I was never that talented: the sum total of my achievements can be seen in the two runners-up plaques I received for being a member of the losing finalists in the local seven-a-side tournament. But boy do I cherish them feckin' plaques.

In a few years time every mother will have one of those glass cabinets. It won't matter that their offspring is a drooling troglodyte incapable of putting one foot in front of the other without falling on their stupid face – they'll still bring home armfuls of bounty on a weekly basis. How come? Because nowadays you get a medal for everything! Run a marathon - finish four weeks after everyone else: here's a medal. Enter a spelling bee - get T-H-E wrong: here's a medal. Go to soccer camp - spend two weeks wandering along the touchline picking your nose: here take this trophy, you've earned it.

What's the point in handing out awards if you're going to give one to everyone? “And the winner of this year's Oscar for best picture........every single film made in the past twelve months.” Disappointment and failure are all part of life, without them we can never fulfill our potential. I'm not sure what potential there is within Tahitian football but judging by the points system in their domestic football league I doubt it will ever be unlocked. Their 'Super League' offers four points for a win, two for a draw and one for a defeat, so you can get hammered 24-0 and still say “ah we got a hard-earned point today lads, keeps us moving up the table.”

Best, or worst depending your viewpoint, of all is the reasoning behind this system. The director of the Tahitian FA explains it by saying “We just don’t want anyone to be sad. With this system, even if a team loses every game, they won’t be on zero points at the end of the season.” But why stop there? Why not dispense with the points system altogether? And goals for that matter. Just let the lads run around for an hour and a half and then when it's all over give them each a big cuddle and a trophy saying 'You're the bestest, most loveliest man in the world.' You might not have a very competitive league, but the players will be the happiest, most upbeat footballers in the world.

War of words

When I was a young, desperate Leaving Cert student I often came up with ingenious ways to pad out my Irish exam papers. Or my German ones for that matter. I'd sit there frantically trying to remember what the Irish for 'potato' was - but to no avail, I was screwed. Unless....unless....I couldn't.....could I? Feck it I will. And in it went, the German for potato 'kartoffeln.' No I hadn't lost my senses, far from it. My reasoning was that the examiner would see my error and take pity on me, “ah the poor lad is after getting mixed up, he's probably doing so much studying that he can't tell right from wrong.” One look at my Leaving Cert results will tell you that I was afforded no such sympathy. And that was just the written exam, I'll spare you the details of the orals.

We've all heard the stories of youngsters today peppering their school assignments with 'innits', 'y'knows' and 'gr8s' and wondered how on earth their teacher's put up with it. But these kids are simply transferring their own language to the page. So how do you stop this practise? By outlawing text speak in schoolwork? It's been done to death, it's time to take things to the next level. A school in London has done just that. They have banned the use of ten terms or phrases on school premises. No longer can a student begin a sentence with the word 'basically', nor can they end one with 'yeah', and under no circumstances can the words 'innit', 'aint' or 'coz' be included in between.

How brilliant would it be to visit this school? Scores of children conversing in the Queen's English while on the school's premises and then turning into semi-literate, faux gangstas as soon as they're out the gate. Will it help improve their vocabulary? Perhaps. But as commendable as the actions of Harris Academy Upper Norwood are, they are in essence fighting a losing battle. Because a couple of hundred years from now mankind will have come full circle, years of shortening words and inventing acronyms will have taken its toll, and he will communicate with his fellow creatures by simply grunting and gesturing. I blame internetz innit, lol.

 Ace Rihanna, Twitter Detective

My knowledge of pop music and those who peddle it is limited. Rihanna? She sang a song about an umbrella and got a hiding off her boyfriend – that's all I got. But twice in the past month I've had to cause to take note of the Barbadian (I had to look that up) songstress' actions. First an Instagram photo she posted of herself with a Slow Loris (Google it, they're cute) led to the arrest of two men for illegal possession of a protected animal. And now a tweet about the goings on at a sex show have led to the arrest of a Thai man for hosting such an event without a permit. Obviously Rihanna didn't realise her actions would have such consequences, but this is just another example of the power of the celebrity.

And this got me thinking. All of those no-mark, wastrels who have someone conned their way into the public psyche, why don't they give a little something back? One tweet from an X-Factor hopeful describing the funny whiff coming from the kitchen of their local kebab house, and a couple of minutes later the place is awash with Health & Safety inspectors. Miley Cyrus, how many followers has she on Twitter? Probably about nine million. She should be out fighting crime instead of posting pics of her skinny little arse. Real-life superheroes meting out justice via their social networking accounts: this is what society needs. It's the least these fuckers can do having inflicted their shite music/reality TV/awkward dance routines on the poor, hapless general public.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.

Feline furore 

It was art imitating life not the other way around. Love/Hate returned to our screens this week and one scene sparked more controversy than the previous three series combined. At the time of watching I thought nothing of it, if it had been a dog then yeah I probably would have been a bit upset, but cats? They're ten a penny these days. I jest of course, I'm no lover of cats but along with most sane folk I detest any kind of cruelty to animals. But this was a TV show and the producers went on to state that no cats were harmed during the making of the episode. That didn't stop the outrage though, not to mention the complaints.

In a way I can understand the outcry, torturing defenceless creatures seems to be very much in vogue among Ireland's teens at the moment, and seeing 'Cleo' gunned down so violently could arguably vindicate their actions. But isn't it time we stopped blaming the media for society's ails? A few weeks ago I spoke of the impact of Grand Theft Auto and how it allegedly turns our children into homicidal lunatics. I ended that piece by saying that it is not up to Rockstar to guide the world's youth through those difficult teenage years, it's up to their parents. And the same applies here.

Airing when it did – at a time when every community in the country could tell you stories about domesticated animals being tortured – was unfortunate, but shows like Love/Hate are supposed to reflect society as accurately as they possibly can. Did it glamourise the slaying of this moggy? I didn't think so, instead it showed how blasé and feckless certain segments of our society have become. This shit goes on in our country whether you like it or not and if you're offended by its on-screen depiction then maybe Love/Hate isn't the programme for you.

Pride and glory

If you drink a pint of Guinness you qualify to play for Ireland.” Ho ho ho, ha ha ha, good one lads, ye're only gas. How many times have we heard that one from our friends across the pond? It was all in good humour of course, and wasn't far from the truth in all honesty. But who's laughing now? A few hours after Manchester United's two one win over Sunderland last weekend I turned on Match of the Day eager to relive Adnan Januzaj's masterclass all over again. The England manager, Roy Hodgson, was in the studio to discuss how his players had performed in the various games throughout the country. And it was slim pickings for Woy, the English national team is not loaded with talent at this moment in time it's fair to say. But what's this? A promising young player in with a chance of going to Brazil next summer? Who could it be?

Why Januzaj of course. That's right, this Belgian born eighteen-year old with Albanian heritage was apparently a potential saviour for the Three Lions. What? Forget the fact that he would need to be living in the UK for a least another two years before he could even qualify to play for one of the Home Nations; that ruling has always been a nonsense and should be scrapped completely. The issue here is the sheer arrogance (or stupidity I'm not sure which) of the English. You'd swear they had a record comparable to the Spaniards or Brazilians in recent years, it's as if Adnan can barely wait to get the Queen's mug tattooed on his arm and belt out the national anthem alongside ole' Lionheart himself.

Why would he want to play for England? An international career comprising of 'spirited' runs to the quarter-finals and bittersweet eliminations on penalties is hardly that alluring is it? Belgium have one of the best sides in world football at this moment in time, but hey they're only Belgium right? I have no idea who Januzaj will represent at international level, I'm far more concerned with his club career to be honest. But I'm sure he'll pick whatever country he feels most passionate about. The cynics among you may dispute that, you'll say that he'll weigh up his options, decide which route benefits him the most and base his decision on that. And maybe you'd be right, maybe I'm being naive about the whole thing – just ask that Italian sounding, cockney accented, Irish man Tony Cascarino.

One true religion

The First Holy Communion is a momentous day in any child's life. You're finally one of God's children and as a reward you get to eat him, not literally of course; he died years ago so instead it's a bit of stale bread that gets plopped on your tongue by the priest. But what a day it is, you get all dressed up in clothes which were carefully selected to make you feel as uncomfortable as possible before taking your place among all the other holy little whelps. Then when the boring church bit is over you get taken for a slap-up meal at the fanciest restaurant in town – Eddie Rocket's it is then. But all this shit is secondary, we all know what the day is really about and it doesn't involve God or anything to do with that Mass nonsense.

It's about money, and how much of it you can get. Yes, yes we're delighted to be welcomed into God's arms and all that malarkey but: SHOW US THE MONEY. Aunties, uncles, cousins, ould wans you don't even know, strangers who glance in your direction, they're all possible outlets for cash: and you won't stop counting until it's time for bed and a few half-hearted prayers to that Jesus fella. What child in their right mind would pass up such an opportunity? This is a chance to swell your bank balance to previously unheard of levels. But some of the children in the Gaelscoil An Raithín don't seem to understand just how important this day is - they wanted to go to a One Direction concert instead.

Okay so their plan was to rearrange the Communion for another day, it clashed with the teen popster's performance and the concerned parents didn't want their kids to miss out on seeing Harry Styles and co in the flesh. Fuck that. Not only is this an affront to the Catholic church and all it stands for, but much more importantly it threatened to mess with the gathering of several crumpled up ten, twenty and even fifty Euro notes. What kind of parents are these? Thankfully democracy won the day. After the votes were counted and verified it was decreed that the Communion would go ahead and those wishing to see One Direction would have to wait until the reunion in three years time. Maybe the kids can use some of the money earned on their Holy day to purchase a ticket. 

How do you clean yours?

 “How do you eat yours?” That's what Cadbury's ask us every Easter as they flood our stores with their delicious Creme Eggs, and we all have different methods of tackling those ever-shrinking capsules of joy. But now there's a new question gripping the nation, and it's all thanks to an Internet forum called mumsnet. If you haven't read about this story I'll give you a brief synopsis right now. On this forum – which is a place where women gather to talk about the important things in life – a member started a thread entitled 'Do you dunk your penis'. Let's try and ignore the fact that the poster refers to her partner's penis as her own, that's not the weirdest part of this by a long stretch. The woman in question went on to ask her fellow forumistas whether they had a special 'penis beaker' at the side of the bed; essentially a container filled with water used as by her fella for clean-up area after they'd engaged in a bit of coitus.

Obviously none of them did, they used the bathroom like most normal people. But although some of the replies went into horrendous detail we, the menfolk of this world, weren't consulted at any point. So I'm asking you, my fellow gentlemen; how do you clean yours? Are you one of those neanderthals who grunts “Thanks love,” rolls over and falls asleep? Or do you take to the bathroom and give yourself a proper scrub (raising the question; just how dirty was she?)? Most of you I'd imagine, will fall somewhere in the middle. You'll spot a discarded tissue lying on the floor and use it to give yourself a rudimentary cleansing before chucking it from whence it came. Me? I like to wipe mine on the curtains before hopping back into bed and holding her in my arms, a proper romantic that's what I am.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Seven days and one week

A round-up of the week's major news stories as seen through the eyes of an inattentive, misinformed moron.

And justice for all..

We all hope he burns in hell for eternity and maybe he will, but for the time being his fate is in the hands of the authorities. Need you ask whom I'm talking about? The most reviled man in the country right now, the evil bastard who did unspeakable things to those poor little mites. For most of us his identity is currently unknown, and like it or not that's how it should be. There's a reason why the judicial system works as it does and despite the callous nature of his crimes this man is entitled to his anonymity – at least for now. But someone should try explaining this to the social media guerrillas who, in their infinite wisdom, chose to 'out' him during the week.

I didn't happen to see his name, but if I had what would I have done? Not a whole lot obviously, after all this is twenty-first century and vigilante mobs rarely gather together to mete out justice. But clearly whomever leaked his identity to the world at large had a reason for doing so. Did this person believe that what they were doing would benefit the young victims? Did they believe that by unmasking this monster they were doing us all a favour? There was already scores of people waiting outside the police station where the accused was being questioned, would the revealing of his identity swelled those numbers into the hundreds? And then what? The baying mob screams for justice and maybe if we're lucky, we get to watch a mini-riot or at the very least some fisticuffs.

Aside from the risk in compromising the case against the accused there are many other factors to take into consideration when you decide to provide such a public service. For a start there's the accused's family. It's bad enough discovering your kin is the spawn of Satan without fending off abuse from outraged protesters. And what about the family of those children he abused? They are coming to terms with a living nightmare and the last thing they need to see is his face spread all over the Sunday papers. Ideally the first time they'll see him is in the court where they will look him in the eye while he answers for his crimes. And ultimately they want to see him rot in a jail cell until he breathes his last. There's a reason we have a justice system, it might not always produce the kind of results we want but it's far more effective than taking matters into our own hands.

You're not singing anymore

You may find it hard to believe but attending football matches was, at one time, something only done by working-class males. Groups of lads in their teens and twenties would set off from their local estates and walk to football grounds that were a part of the community's fabric. Once there they would queue at the gate, pay their way in and choose their spot on the terracing. And for the next few hours they immersed themselves in a cultural experience now obsolete in all bar a few countries. Their behaviour may have often crossed the line but some of their antics seem harmless in comparison to the exploits of today's youth. These lads weren't mindless thugs preying on the weak, they were simply young pups finding their way in the world.

Those lads are middle-aged men nowadays old enough to bring their own children to the game. But most don't bother. And why would they? Oh yes it's far safer now and Junior can sip on a Coke and munch on a pie while he watches; but once inside the ground and at his seat, what then? If he's lucky you may have got tickets in one of the more vociferous areas of the ground, with some careful encouragement he might even join in on some of the chants. Oh but what's that? A swear word? Don't tell Mum alright lad? And he won't, 'cos he knows the score. He'll wait until Monday morning, until he's in school, and then he'll repeat what he heard while his mates look on in awe.

Soon those middle-aged men won't have to worry about their offspring reporting back to Mummy dearest. They won't have to explain why when your old man told you to be a city fan you replied “bollocks you're a cunt.” They'll return from the game and it will be like they've just come back from the fairground; popcorn, goodie bags and Coca-cola aplenty. Hell next time Mum might even come with you! This is how football is going: a sanitised form of entertainment akin to a night at the movies. The once seething amphitheatres of European football are gradually turning into amusement parks. And if you were in any doubt then just look at the directive handed down to Tottenham and West Ham fans this weekend.

They can't say the word 'Yid'. And if they do they will be arrested. I'm half-expecting the old bill to bust down my door simply because I've typed it. So what is a Yid? It is “offensive slang, used as a disparaging term for a Jew.” And Tottenham have always had a large number of Jewish supporters, so much so that during away games the visiting supporters were often treated to hissing sounds from a home crowd mimicking World War II's gas chambers. But that's football rivalry at it's very worst, almost as bad as those mocking the Munich Air Disaster or the Hillsborough tragedy. And with true terrace wit the Spurs fans chose not to get offended by these slurs but to adopt them as their own. Rather than be outraged and complain to the stewards they figured that self-deprecation was the best weapon. And so began the chants of “Yid Army” and “Yiddos.” As an opposing fan how do you react to that? With dumbfounded silence I'd imagine.

Tottenham's support should be commended for their actions; how nice it is to see that sardonic humour is alive and well in the football ground's of today. Alas the opposite is happening. Any supporter at Sunday's game, whether they Spur or Hammer, who utters the word Yid will be escorted off the premises; Sky News even got a policeman on to confirm it. This is football in 2013 ladies and gentlemen. A game where you pay your money, buy your refreshments, sit in your seat and do as you're told. If you wish to get behind your team, express an opinion or, perish the thought, have a bit of back-and-forth with the opposition fans then you're in the wrong place. Watch it at home or at the pub because you're not welcome here.

Strong in the force

Finally it's happened, finally they have figured out how to make real-life lightsabers. Well done lads, but where were ye twenty-odd years ago when I was still young enough to become a Jedi?! Everyone knows that you have to be trained as a child or it's pointless! But credit where it's due, physicists at Harvard and MIT say “they have discovered a way to bind photons together in order to form a new molecule which behaves almost exactly like George Lucas's deadly devices.” I don't think I've ever envied those blokes who spend their entire lives in laboratories looking through magnifying glasses but right now I wish I'd listened a bit harder during that ill-fated term in Physics.

One of the boffins goes on to say “It's not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers. The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies." Physics? Molecules? Who cares man, you just made a lightsaber! All that's left now is to put them on sale to the general public, preferably before Christmas. The price-tag is not an issue I will get the money, somehow. Or better still if you're reading this and wondering what to get me for Santa's birthday (a green one please) well here is your answer. And you may be glad you got on my good side before I learned how to use the fucker properly - that's all I'm saying. 

The secret to ageing gracefully

Another week, another survey, another Scandinavian nation coming out on top. What is it about those blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauties and their freezing cold countries? This time around it's the best place to grow old. So what's the criteria for making the elderly happy? Well according to this study, compiled by the UN population fund, it is income, employment, health provision, education, and environment among others. Residents over the age of sixty were canvassed in 92 countries with the Swedes coming out on top, closely followed by their Nordic neighbours Norway. Ireland? Twelfth, not bad. And last of the 92? Why Afghanistan of course.

The awesomeness of Scandinavia and it's fantastic quality of life has almost become a cliché at this point. Sadly my own knowledge of the area is restricted to surveys like this and watching some of the brilliant drama series created by the Danes et al in recent years. But in those drama series – Forbrydelsen and Borgen if you must know – there is one common theme, no in fact there is two: it's always dark and everyone looks perished. So answer me this; if you presided over a country where it got dark at half-eleven in the morning and the yearly temperature never got above zero do you think you'd do your best to make the people happy? Damn right you would. Everyone is already miserable beyond belief and if you don't provide them with jobs, a thriving economy, brilliant schools and great TV......well it doesn't bear thinking about really.