Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

A genius, a legend.
We all have our favourites. This is The Board's.

Ill gotten glory

Funny how standards can slip so in the modern media.

Once upon a time, when mobile phones ran on uranium, the Irish young journalist of the year award was given to people with talent, skill and what not.

Today, they're giving it out to the likes of The Board, who spends his days trying to disguise how confused he is by work and life.

The world is truly becoming a dark, strange place.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Taming the savageness of man

Whenever there's a Terminator film in the cinemas, the discussion about how and when technology is going to murder us all becomes customary.

This, not the sight of Leonardo DiCaprio freezing to death, will be James Cameron's despicable gift to the modern world.

Tehran is tearing itself to pieces at the moment. Ayatollah Khamenei is trying (and failing, it seems) to quell the street battles by calling for the children of his nation to pause and show respite, so that his Basij thugs have time enough to shoot and beat them all in turn.

As long as there is power there will be protest. That much is clear.

But the unique facet of this particular unrest is the remarkable deployment of the internet, most notably Twitter, as a weapon for the student groups that are providing the energy and the enthusiasm and the blood that is rocking the Islamic Republic.

Twitter has allowed the co-ordination of protests and the sharing of intelligence, and has become the pulpit for the rallying cries that have kept the protesters united and kept Tehran burning.

The traditional tools of silence and misinformation (such as Khamenei fabricating quotes from Barack Obama in Friday's address to the nation) don't work in the modern age.

No regime has power over the internet.

But the problem with the individualisation of the web is that you have to suffer this kind of excess:
The Dundon gang's posturing for the camera to the sound of gangster rap shows another aspect of what anyone, anywhere can now do with the internet.

Of course, criminals have been boasting about their wealth and promising to murder their rivals for as long as there's been anything to steal. Al Capone built his image as much through manipulation of Chicago newspapermen as his crimes.

But the Dundons' video touched a raw, painful nerve with the people of Limerick; people who have had to suffer the murder and drug abuse that they have unleashed on our city.

In the past seven days, we have seen how an individual's interaction with the internet can inform, inspire and enrage.

Ayatollah Khamenei cannot stop Iranian students defying him through Twitter. None of us can prevent the Dundons posting their arrogant displays on YouTube.

The wonderful and the disgusting faces of humanity are now visible in everyone's inbox, on everyone's iPhones, behind everyone's keyboards.

This is the world we live in.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Hangover is the funniest film of our times. Finally, we have found the spiritual heir to Old School.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

“Ahmadinejad called us dust, we showed him a sandstorm.”

"Everyone speaking of Ayatollah Khamenei tends to use the word 'cautious,' a man who never gambles. But he now faces a nearly impossible choice. If he lets the demonstrations swell, it could well change the system of clerical rule. If he uses violence to stamp them out, the myth of a popular mandate for the Islamic revolution will die."

- Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times

It has been a delicate balance for Iran since the revolution in 1979, trying to counter a model of representative democracy under an all-powerful Shiite leadership, personified for the past two decades by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Does it work?

Any model of government relies on control of the apparatus of state to stand, thrive and survive.

In theory, this means many things - the currency and the exchequer; state media; a working legislature.

But in practice this comes down to one thing - coercion. As we have seen far too often, control of the police and the army equates to control of all of society.

Now, with a disputed election setting alight the ideals and energy of a young, educated generation of Iranians, we are going to see exactly who controls the Islamic Republic, and towards whom the apparatus of will power break.

The New York Times, God bless their bankrupt souls, are reporting that the tumult that has poured on to the streets of Tehran and claimed seven lives may be about to expose cracks in the previously unquestionable authority of Khamenei, who is doing his aura of invincibility no favours in backtracking from his stance of solid support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by calling for a review of last week's blatantly rigged poll.

He's clearly just buying time, but the act is significant all the same.

The crux of what's happening there is that the Ayatollah and the Guardian Council rely on a fundamentalist strand of Islam perforating all facets of Iranian life to maintain their grip on power.

Mir Hussein Moussavi, the reformist who had last week's election stolen from him, would have stressed secularist policies, detente with the west and improved personal freedoms for women.

The conservative branches of power could not, would not and will not tolerate a reformist at a time when youth populism is so receptive and volatile. They figured that handing the election to Ahmadinejad and letting protests build for a time before imposing a blanket media ban and curfew would see them through.

They were wrong.

Whatever happens in Iran in the coming days, we are not likely to witness a sea change in how this conservative religious hierarchy chooses to do business.

Iran is now just another example, if we needed any, about how incompatible Church and State are in a globalised world.

Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern secularist Turkey, looks even more like a man ahead of his time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How do you solve a problem like Ronaldo

Pack his suitcase. Drive him to the airport. Take Madrid's shiny, ridiculously plump bag of ill-gotten pesetas. Send a bit of it to Wigan and fetch that tricky Valencia lad.

Load up the transit, get the sea cat over to Calais and aim the van towards Lyon. Taste a bit of the Beaujolais region's best grape.

Double back for the ferry, swing over the Stade de Gerland, pick up Karim Benzema and return to the hard, cold bosom of the North West, chuckling the night away.

Wait for the 2010 Premier League trophy to follow.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mr Smith goes to Washington

"It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting" - Tom Stoppard

The Board's first experience with a local election count at the weekend reminded him of the time he went to see Stargate at the Odeon in Gants Hill in Ilford back in the day.

For the opening scenes, your senses are overwhelmed by the scale and sound and ambition of it all.

By the mid point you're only there out of a sense of duty, a desire to see the crusade through, as your spirit has started to crack and your mind turns heavy and idle.

By the end, you just want to shoot Kurt Russell in the eye.

There was rapture and glory and liquor at City Hall in the early hours of Sunday morning, as the will of the people crystallised into the disfigured forms of 17 men, women and a City Council.

But none of that joy belonged to The Board.

Indeed, were it not for the wonderful, wonderful Liz Creamer and her colleagues in City Hall plying him full of coffee, sandwiches and smiles, The Board would have gone all 'Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall' - storming the imaginary trenches of the counting tables, scalping every Kaiser's soldier he could reach.

So were my volumes of insight into the Limerick City East ward worth it?


Every rapscallion from Athlunkard Street to Grove Island knew that the Mayor would get elected at the top of the poll, because that is what John Gilligan does. The sight of him being thrown atop aching shoulders in the dark every five years is almost a national institution.

Kieran O'Hanlon showed that he was truly boned and rolled in Teflon as a child, as he once again defied the voters' Fianna Fail cull, claiming the second seat, while Ginger McLoughlin waltzed in on count eight. Denis McCarthy of Fine Gael ran off with the empty seat in the corner on count ten.

Four seats were filled, four candidates went home happy, no Limerick Leader junior reporter climbed to the top of City Hall seeking an illicit glimpse of Elton John, slipped on the unseasonably wet ramparts and fell to his death on the shores of Curraghgower.


For a slightly less flippant City East roundup, and proof that The Board didn't simply spend the 2009 City Council count listening to The Blue Nile on YouTube for 13 hours, click here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Too much to talk about

Instant text messages. Second by second updates to an online audience of 20 million through Twitter and Facebook. Live broadcasts in four languages.

President Obama is very intent on getting his message across today, it seems.

Such is the nous of Obama's communications team, and the infatuation with his oratory, that we are expecting his speech in Cairo this afternoon to be all things to all people.

Defining. Clear. Soft in tone but sharp in intent. A fresh start in America's relations with the Muslim world.

A signpost for the way forward.

But The Board will be very surprised if we come away from this display of rapprochement any the wiser about how America intends to remove illegal settlements in the West Bank, or bring about an end to Iran's nuclear enrichment programme, or how it will stabilise the Swat valley, or how it will break down the hard, corrosive feelings that young Muslim men in Tehran and Kabul and Bradford have been taught to hold towards the United States.

Even for Obama, there aren't enough hours in the day or words on the tongue for that.

Of course, he is too succinct a political operator to hammer out aggressive speeches and see who explodes first.

He has already made sympathetic overtures to the Arab world, and will do so again today. He has signalled his intent to move US heavy industry onto 15 per cent renewable energy. He has sought to map a future of co-operation, if not alliance, with China.

So reckless and abrasive was the Bush Administration's eight years of diplomatic terror that Obama may have to spend his first four years simply talking everyone into talking.

But eventually, he's going to have to realise that the ears of the Middle East won't be lulled into consensus. Some day, he is going to have to condemn, reject, and set the will of his administration against the Israeli aggression that has reduced the Palestinian people to cannon fodder, and the Pakistani corruption that has created a failed state.

We're all going to like the sound of Obama's speech today, but we must look forward to the day when some people will not.

That's when we'll know we're making progress.
P.S. Link to full text of the speech from the Washington Post here. I told you it'd be a biggun.