Why, mummy, why?

A terrible story appeared in our local paper today

TEARS AFTER SCHOOL FIRE
Heartless vandals have destroyed a playground designed for special needs school children. Children, teachers and parents at Ballyowen Meadows School for autistic children in Beechpark, Stilllorgan, were left heartbroken last Tuesday morning when they discovered the aftermath of the mindless attack.

It then went on to detail interviews with one of the parents where she revealed that her son had asked “why, mummy, why?”.

Heart-wrenching stuff.

Of course, me being me, I had to look for the funny side of it and thankfully that came in the form of a typically-staged journalistic photo opportunity. The picture involved three dejected looking school children looking almost cartoony in their facial expressions. I’d go as far as to say that it actually had the opposite affect on the story, causing me to feel less sorry for them.

Anyway take a look at this pic and see if you notice anything funny with one of the kids.

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That’s right. The middle kid, an autistic child of ten years old, either has parents with a cutting sense of humour – or a pair that are bloody sick. His t-shirt boast of “lock up your daughters” has to be one of the most tasteless things I’ve seen in ages. Why? In case he launches a heavy glass ashtray at their heads?

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Easy, tiger

Journalism really makes me laugh sometimes. Even though I study it in college I still scratch my head at the way it all works. We report facts – the news – and present a balanced view based on all sides of the story.

This week a teenager was mauled by a tiger in Dublin Zoo.

The BBC story reports that she was 19. The RTE story reports that she was 16. News24 reports a zoo director saying that the woman and her friend were “carrying alcohol in soft drink bottles so we can make the assumption their judgment was impaired”.

The papers have been dominated by Dublin Zoo making staunch defences of their security policies and trying to explain that tigers are wild animals and will actually bite people who stick their hands in to the cages.

What a waste of paper.

The main function of journalism for me is to report what is in the public interest.

So the public interest angle for me on this story is not that a woman’s hand was bitten by a tiger and she is now recovering in the hospital. The real story is that this utter toe-rag of a human being and her only-slightly more sensible pal are the flashing beacon representing all that is wrong with society.

I don’t even need to see these people to know what they look like – unkempt, undignified and without education or common sense.

The type of people who wander around public places with coke bottles full of alcohol are the type of people whom our people in power should be dealing with rather than placating. When this woman is out of hospital she should be brought to court for trespassing on private property. Okay so it’s a token charge but let’s make a bit of an effort here.

Why Dublin Zoo has to defend themselves against an idiot who climbs a six foot wall and blatantly does something they are not supposed to do is beyond me. I can only assume that she has some sort of learning disability because even leaving aside that she probably is bereft of common sense and education, surely there must be some logical part of the brain that equates tigers to danger.

But the stories on the front page of our newspapers are dull as dishwater. No condemnation of this moron and a wider condemnation of a State that still has not managed to reign in these boils on Irish. Have I got the wrong end of the stick here?

[Album Review] "Pearl Jam" – Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam

They are the best rock band in the world, period. That’s not even an opinion, it’s fact. How do I know it’s fact? Because I was visited by a mysterious shadow in the night and he carved it in my forehead. That’s foreHEAD.

A bit of history on Pearl Jam because I know many of you kinda forgot about them after “Ten” (1991). The success of their first two records (“Vs” (1993) being their second) overwhelmed the band to the point where they became somewhat uncomfortable with it all (“Vs” sold 950,000 copies in its first week). “Vitalogy” (1994) marked a move away from commercial territory and the band made a conscious decision not to make music videos anymore.

This started to impact their popularity and although “No Code” (1996) and “Yield” (1998) hit #1 and #2 respectively on the Billboard charts, they quickly slid. “Binaural” (2000) was a more sombre and softer-sounder affair but contained classic tunes like “Thin Air”, “Nothing as it Seems”, “Grievance” and “Light Years”.

Their seventh album, a heavier, darker five-star effort called “Riot Act” (2002), was a criticial success but commercial failure – it shifted only 500,000 copies.

But in a couple of months their latest record, “Pearl Jam” (2006), has sold over 1,200,000 copies and download-only single “World Wide Suicide” was a #1 rock single and hit #41 on the Billboard charts.

So, they’re back you see. But is it any good?

Opening with “Life Wasted”, vocalist Eddie Vedder bemoans lazy, negative attitudes ‘ maybe one in particular: “You’re always saying that there’s something wrong/I’m starting to believe it’s your plan all along”. The catchy, rocky chorus of “I’ve tasted a life wasted/I’m never going back again” thunders along on a typical PJ riff. Great opener.

At a little over two minutes “Comatose” is perfect PJ punk – breakneck throb, in-your-face lyrics (“Put me in a vacuum/I’ll be hanging upside down/Blood on all the pistons”) and a wondrous solo from guitarist Mike McCready.

“Severed Hand” starts off with what sounds like a guitar track played backwards before finding its groove with a foot-tapping rock riff about drug use. The subject admits that he “Tried to walk, found a severed hand/recognized it by the wedding band” and accepting the risks involved in indulging: “”You’ll see dragons after 3 or 4…”. Terrific song.

“Unemployable” is a straight-on lament from the working man – “When he smashed the metal locker where he kept his things/After the big boss say ‘You best be on your way'”. Vedder talks about this now-jobless man whose “brain weighs the curse of thirty bills unpaid” and how “this life is sacrifice/Jumping trains just to survive”.

Pearl Jam have done a lot of introspective numbers over the years and there are several slowed-down moments on this album too. “Gone” is one of the album’s stand-outs about the need to get away from it all (“This American Dream I am disbelieving/I wanna leave em all behind me cause this time I’m gone”). Vedder’s clever lyric of “Feel like a question is forming/and the answer’s far” is a fine example of what he does best.

The excellent “Come Back” treads the well-worn path of lost love and although the most relaxed song on the album it doesn’t fall in to the same mediocre hole that “Thumbing My Way” did on “Riot Act”.

“Marker in the Sand” is one of three political song on show and it’s a hard-hitting one. “Misunderstanding, what original truth was” perhaps a jab at Bush’s reasons for waging war in the Asia; “expanding in a faith, but not in love” a shot at the neo-conservatives in the US Government.

He underlines the war with the lines “Now you got both sides claiming killing in God’s name/But god is nowhere to be found, conveniently” and makes a quite reasonable appeal “God, what do you say?”. Excellent tune that pushes all the right buttons.

Lead single “World Wide Suicide” struggles with midly-banal lyrics but the catchy rock-riff has a hook, no doubt. Another dead soldier (“Medals on a wooden mantle/Next to a handsome face”), a President who pushes on (“Writing checks that others pay”) and the rather controversial description of that man’s position: “Tell you to pray while the devil’s on his shoulder”.

“Parachutes” is a beautiful Beatles-esque number while “Army Reserve” is the story of a woman whose husband is gone to war (“She can feel this/War on her face”). She battles with the trauma of maybe having to tell her son where his Daddy is (“I’m not blind/I can see it coming/Looks like lightning/In my child’s eye”). Some of the lyrics are just amazing (“An empty chair where dad sits/How loud can silence get?”).

The album closes with the six minute-plus “Inside Job”. With elements of Pink Floyd in both sound and structure it tells of guitarist Mike McCready’s battle with drug and alcohol addiction (“Underneath this smile lies everything/All my hopes, anger, pride and shame”) and his determination to overcome (“I will not lose my faith/It’s an inside job today”). Remarkable.

Everything that this band touches turns to gold. If Pearl Jam wanted to be like U2, selling out massive arenas worldwide, they could be. To me they are without doubt on the same level as U2 when they were at their best – way ahead of them now in terms of songwriting. This is not quite as strong as “Riot Act” on initial listens but I’ve a feeling it’s a grower and could be recipient of another half-star in a month or two.

Track listing
1 Life Wasted; 2 World Wide Suicide; 3 Comatose; 4 Severed Hand; 5 Marker in the Sand; 6 Parachutes; 7 Unemployable; 8 Big Wave; 9 Gone; 10 Wasted (reprise); 11 Army Reserve; 12 Come Back; 13 Inside Job

4star

Washed Up: The David Beckham Story

David Beckham. Lovely David Beckham.

The tide has finally turned against Beckham as he slips off the radar as the darling of English footballer. After yet another poor performance in England’s defeat to Portugal today, Beckham has surely made his last World Cup appearance – he will be 35 by the time the next one comes around. Even expecting him to play any considerable role for England in Euro 2008 is unlikely given how utterly ineffective he is as both a player and a captain. At 31, Beckham should be capable of making the sort of impact that the likes of Zinedine Zidane – utterly brilliant against Brazil tonight – and Luis Figo are.

But Beckham is just not in the same class. George Best once said about him: “He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn’t score many goals. Apart from that he’s all right.”

What Beckham could do very well (apart from whore himself around the media) was hit great free kicks and cross the ball as well as anyone in the world. But unfortunately as his influence has waned on the pitch these contributions became the sole reason to have him out there. As a captain he is uninspiring and the decision to make him so was more a public relations move than a tactical one.

England have paid the price for pandering to the whole David Beckham image and it is no conincidence that their best hour of football in the tournament was the hour that he was not on the pitch – he hobbled off injured after 51 minutes today.

A friend of mine went to school with Beckham in London and told me that after Goldenballs became a star in the mid 90s reporters contacted several of them to try and get some good stories on him. But he was a popular kid in school and his friends had nothing to say that would have shifted newspapers. He still commands fierce loyalty in Chingford and the surrounding area of east London. I was in a bar with my mate back in 1997 during a football tournament called Le Tournoi. Beckham was making his breakthrough at the time but I was not impressed at all by him and made it pretty clear that I considered him overrated. I was politely warned that it was not safe to have a go at him (even bearing in mind that he sodded off from his precious London to join Manchester United).

He’s had his share of scandal and has somehow managed to survive several allegations of affairs. His wife, Victoria, has believed him to be innocent of any wrongdoing finding solace in the 16m a year he earns.

But the media circus that surrounds him – the conception and birth of his kids, the tattoos, the new hairstyles, the fashion gaffes – was cleverly manufactured by his little PR rabble that has made him a familiar name around the world. Even in Canada.

Unfortunately I believe that it is has all been to the detriment of his football. A player with unlimited potential saw much of the development lost in a haze of celebrity – a situation that ultimately led to his long-time mentor, Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, selling him to Real Madrid.

What David Beckham did was choose money and celebrity over football. He may love football but he loves fame more. And that’s why, at 31, Beckham cuts a rather sad figure; a peripheral player who reached the top but for the wrong reasons.

It’s enough to make you sick.

Beckham vomit