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Bag Your Enthusiasm

Finding a summer job that’s relatively easy going is near impossible. You don’t want to kill yourself working over the summer, you just want some extra money to spend on new clothes and a few drinks in your local, you might even stretch it to a cheap last minute holiday in sun. But no, it’s never going to happen. And judging by various different job search sites, if you want any job at all, you’d better be a people person. When you search for part time or temporary work, you’ll almost always be bombarded with fundraising jobs for various different charities, mystery shoppers, going door to door trying to sell God knows what, or the old reliable, “TV EXTRAS WANTED! APPLY NOW!”

The problem is, when you click to see what it is these jobs require you’re forced to ask yourself: Are you super enthusiastic? Have you got great people skills? Are you confident and outgoing? Do you have buckets of energy? Are you highly motivated and ambitious with great negotiation skills? Are you excited at the prospect of meeting new people every single day? And do you have the motivation and drive to work exceptionally hard and only get paid by commission?

You’d be tired after just reading the damn thing. Anyone who has the energy to actually do any of these jobs deserves a medal. We see them every day on the street, but straight away we avoid them. The dreaded charity fundraisers. “Sorry,” we tell them, if we were too slow to get out of the firing line, “I’ve to catch the bus” or, “I’ve to go to the dentist”, or for the less apologetic among us, “No”, just a simple two lettered word that lets the fundraiser know that you’re having none of it.

The level of enthusiasm required to do these jobs is something that I don’t think many Irish people have – certainly I don’t think any of my friends could muster up that much energy to put themselves in a position of such public dislike. We’re a fairly placid bunch of twenty somethings who tend not to get overly excited about anything other than holidays, nights out, new clothes and Chinese take aways – surely we can’t be that different from the rest of the nation?

I spoke to Niamh Ferris, the Senior Recruitment Developer at Total Fundraising, a service provider to the not-for-profit sector who offer charities a wide range of fundraising services. Their most recent job advertisement is looking for people who have confidence and excellent communication skills, a high level of self-motivation and ambition and a genuine desire to over-achieve. I asked her how hard it was to find the perfect candidate in Ireland, where most of us would rather curl up and die than put ourselves out there for the whole world to see, “We meet a lot of people through interviews to find the perfect team of fundraisers so, yes, it can be difficult as we do require a really high standard to represent our charity clients. However, finding that diamond in the rough makes it worth it.”

Niamh says that while us Irish may not be known for our fantastic public speaking skills, there are other qualities which make us the ideal candidate, “Every individual is different. Traditionally speaking Irish people can be known as ‘grafters’ which is a really admirable quality too. Confidence and bravado are useless qualities for fundraisers unless there is great work ethic to back it up.” However, enthusiasm for the job at hand is still one of the most important qualities, “It shows the candidate really wants the job, that they are passionate about the charities we represent and that they will therefore be very committed employees.”

While I was looking through these job advertisements, I couldn’t help but think that the ideal candidate would most likely be American. They are the kind of people these companies want to fundraise for them. It may be a complete stereotype, but if you had to give the country of America a personality as a whole, wouldn’t it be a happy, confident, enthusiastic, optimistic and outgoing one? We just have to look at our own Enda Kenny and compare him to Barack Obama to see the vast differences between Irish and American levels of confidence and enthusiasm. Sandra Sheerin, founder of Public Speaking Ireland, moved to America when she was ten years old and stayed there for 12 years. Going from an all girls Catholic school to a mixed American high school was one hell of a change, but as far as confidence building goes, it was the best chance she could have been given. She says that our lack of confidence for public speaking is all down to our education system, “In America, public speaking is part of the curriculum from a young age so it takes the fear out of it. Children are encouraged to speak up and voice their opinions in school and at home. They’re brought up that way. In Irish schools, you’re told to sit down, shut up and listen – you’re not allowed to make a sound! Then you go into third level education and avoid public speaking like the plague, and you might get away with it. Then you do the same thing in a work environment, and then that’s when I end up with a class full of 40 year olds!”

Sandra says that if you need help with coming across as more enthusiastic in interviews, what you need to do is pick three things that you’re really good at, and talk about them. “Irish people don’t really like doing that, they think they’re putting themselves on a pedestal, but there’s always something you actually are really good at”. The key is to really believe you’re good at whatever it is you’re saying you’re good at, rather than learning something off because that’s what you think you should be saying.

That’s the hard part though, isn’t it? Telling people how great you are, fighting the natural reaction to talk yourself down. Sure, you’ve got degrees coming out your ears and hold down three jobs so you can afford to send your dying granny on the holiday she’s always wanted, but what else would ye be doin’? It’s no big deal.
Maybe if we were more enthusiastic about our own achievements, we’d be more confident and better suited to the kind of jobs that require the energy and confidence to persuade people to part with their money for a good cause. And then maybe, just maybe, we could talk our way out of this recession….

Tea Song – the next big hit?

Tea – the number one beverage in Ireland. We love it. We really, really do. No meal is complete without a cup of tea, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. The McGetigans are a band made up of five “completely unknown day job men” from Wicklow and Dublin, and they love tea so much that they’ve written a song about it. If you’re feeling a bit sluggish lately – maybe you’ve over done it on the tea, or maybe you haven’t had enough – whatever the reason, you really need to sit down and have a listen. It is destined to be the next Breakfast Roll song, as far as I’m concerned. But then this article is not about me, it’s about Kevin O’Brien, the lead singer of The McGetigans (or the one behind the blue cup if you’ve seen the video). He explains the inspiration behind the song, “Well, we do like a lot of tea! It’s just one of those songs, kind of phrases you say like “I wouldn’t say no to tea” or “Who’s makin’ the tea?” and then we were just in the kitchen one day and we were sayin’ how we’d be negative about most things, especially politics and stuff like that, but ye know, the only thing we wouldn’t say no to is tea, and then somehow it just came together”.

The Tea Song is fast becoming a big YouTube hit, something the band hadn’t anticipated, “We weren’t expecting that at all! We knew we liked the song, and we kind of had one verse ready and we played it, but then a week ago we sat down and did the other two versus, then we were so excited that we finished the song we just quickly recorded ourselves playing in front of two cups of tea, stuck it on the net and asked our friends to share it and it’s been doing well since then!”

The band, which consists of Kevin, John Sweeney, Barry O’Dwyer, Brian Murphy and Brendan Lawless, is still fairly new. Kevin and John, the two in the video for the Tea Song, have played together for years, but they decided to properly form a band about a year and a half ago, “We actually formed a band, started playing gigs and recording properly. Last year was great – it’s kind of slowed down now – but we released a single last year and we played loads of gigs over the summer and all, but then, ye know, we didn’t make it famous or anything so we just sort of calmed down, and then winter happened and we kind of hibernated but we’re going to start playing more gigs and stuff like that again now”.

You might wonder about the name of the band, The McGetigans. There’s not one McGetigan in the band, so where did that come from? Kevin explains, “Basically, years ago I wrote a play that I never did anything with and it was called ‘God, The Devil and The Frustration of Old Man McGettigan’, and it was basically about a character who was a perverse old man in a pub down the country, and we’re all a bit pervy generally, as McGetigans, so the first song we wrote was about McGetigan, and so we just called ourselves The McGetigans, because we’re all pervy old man on the inside.” On their website, they explain the reason for misspelling McGetiggan, “None of the men upon which the character had been based were named McGettigan. So not only did these men adopt a surname that was not their own, but it was the surname of a person who didn’t even exist. For this reason they dropped one of the T’s to distinguish themselves from those with the rightful name McGettigan.” Ah, now it all makes sense…sort of.

Getting back to the issue at hand, Kevin is a milk and no sugar kind of man. Though, the debate between Lyons and Barry’s is something he doesn’t get involved in “Ah now ye see, I’m both, but, ye know, that’s one of those things. I just think the difference between Lyons and Barry’s is, with Barry’s; you have to leave the tea bag in for about 30 seconds longer to get the same quality tea. That’d be my personal opinion on it, but ye see, we don’t want to get involved in the politics of tea.”

He’s no hippy either, he has no time for any of that herbal stuff, “But Brian in the band, he’d drink green tea alright. Ye see, if you went through us all, we’d represent quite a lot of tea. We’re not PG Tips men or any of that. It’s between Lyons, Barry’s and then the lads might have their camomile tea or whatever, I’d knock ‘em about it but, they say it’s decent”. Despite their difference of opinion, Kevin is the one who makes the most tea for everyone in the band, “that’s just cause I’m a nicer person really”.

Tea is obviously a big part of Kevin’s life, but to what extent? Exactly how much tea must a man drink to be able to sit down and write a song about it? “If I’m not busy, I could have any amount of tea in the day. The only thing that stops me drinking tea is having to do other things. So I’d say, on average, in a normal working day, I’d have at least eight cups. Then on a day where I’ve nothing to do, I could have 12 or 13 cups of tea, no bother!” He likes the odd bourbon cream to go alongside his tea, or a digestive, “You can have anything with tea. Dip chocolate fingers in tea, or it’s great with a sandwich!”

You can find The McGetigans on Facebook, or their website – but if you’ve listened to the song you’ll know that they say no to Twitter. Why so? “Well we set up a Twitter, ‘cause we were told “You should set up a Twitter!”. But then we just sat there in front of it goin’, “What do we say?” and we didn’t know what to say so we didn’t say anything. And then we stopped being on Twitter because there was no point in being on it and not saying anything.”

So there you have it, a man about tea. Check out the video, you know you want to. Go on! Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on!

By Pauline Dunne

Game Over- Addictive Hobby The Catalyst For Breakdown of Relationships

Have you seen that YouTube video where the girl goes crazy and smashes her boyfriend’s Xbox? She’s lying on her bed and speaks into the camera, “It’s 3am and he’s nowhere to be found. I don’t know where my boyfriend is. Let’s try and find him, I have an idea of where he might be. He’s probably on the couch, where he’s been for the past couple of months, doing nothing but playing his f**king video games”.  She walks into the sitting room and there he is, lying up on the couch engrossed in some game. And then BAM! The Xbox gets it.

He can’t believe it. What has possessed his girlfriend to do such a thing? It was completely over the top, totally unjustified!

Or was it?

A recent survey by One Poll found that over 5% of 1,500 gamers polled confessed that their hobby cost them their relationship. Over half of the women polled admitted to being jealous of the amount of time their significant other spent playing games, and in America, 15% of divorces are blamed on video games. While these statistics may be relatively low in the grand scheme of things, is it cause for alarm? And while it’s no secret that playing your Xbox too much is going to grate on your girlfriend, what are the other ways in which it can ruin your life?

First things first – we need to get to the root of the problem – which is the addictive nature of video games. What is it about them that has both men and women all over the world glued to their television screens for hours on end?

According to a Panorama investigation in 2010, a simple technique based on a 1950s study of rats has been adapted for use in gaming and is feared to encourage addiction. The 1950s study gave rats a lever to press down on and it would randomly give them food, so they kept on pressing it. They became obsessed. The technique, called the ’variable ratio of reinforcement,’ is thought to be one of the reasons people become addicted to slot machines. If you keep on putting money in, you’ll win eventually.

Phil Gormley, a counsellor from Access Counselling in Crumlin, thinks that video games may act as a gateway drug into other addictions such as gambling. Having come through an addiction to gambling himself, he explains how he came to this conclusion, “I think I was going to get into something anyway, and I had to start some place, and video games were where it started. I’d say I was as young as 12 when I started playing games, and it was years ago so there were no Playstations or anything. It was video games and arcades in the shop that you had to pay to use. I would have had no money but I would have stood at a machine watching other people play for hours, or stole money from my parents to go and play them.”

Phil says the reason he used to play the games was because they acted as a release from the stresses of home life. When he was playing the games he wasn’t thinking about anything else only the game, “My mind wasn’t working, I was just focused. As a child I didn’t want to be thinking about the troubles at home and at school so that’s why I played the games, and that’s why I was so good at them, because I was 100% with the video game.”

One of the biggest problems with being addicted to video games, according to Phil, is that there are no obvious problems, “If you’re addicted to gambling there are serious consequences because you lose all your money. But if you’re addicted to video games, you don’t start struggling for money because you have your €300 machine and €50 game – that’s it, financially there are no other problems – but there is huge trauma there. You’re not interacting with human beings.”

It seems that video game addiction is a big problem in Asian countries because competitive gaming is really popular. In 2005, a 28-year-old man from South Korea collapsed and died after playing a game called Starcraft at an Internet cafe for 50 hours. In September 2007, state media in China reported that a man died of exhaustion after playing video games for three days straight, and just this year, a 23 year old man from Taiwan was found dead in an internet cafe after a marathon gaming session. The people who worked in the internet cafe only realised he was dead when they went over to tell him his time was up, and at that stage he had been dead for ten hours and no one had noticed. He was rigid on a chair with his hands stretched out towards the keyboard and mouse.

These are frightening happenings, but not really surprising. In today’s world of over-consumption, addiction is something any of us could fall victim to. The disease is more prevalent in men in general, but especially when it comes to video games. Kirsty Mawhinney from Riot Games, a leading developer and publisher of online games, says that this is because video games tend to be marketed to men more than women. Take Tomb Raider for example, the main character was an attractive, scantily clad woman. Even the colour scheme of most video games is dark and gloomy, something that doesn’t really appeal to a lot of women. Also, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine did a study that shows that the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings is more activated in men than in women when playing video games.

Video game addiction may not be a recognised illness just yet, but it’s something that we should be aware of. Though it sounds trivial, it can spiral out of control quite easily. Some of the physical effects experienced by gaming addicts include carpal tunnel, migraines, sleep disturbances, backaches, eating irregularities, and poor personal hygiene. If you or someone you know has become a bit of a recluse since the release of the latest Call of Duty, there are websites which give information and advice on how to deal with the situation, and there is even a gaming addiction clinic in the UK called Broadway Lodge. They have a twelve step abstinence programme tailored specifically for gaming addicts. The main thing to remember is that there is help out there if you want it, and if you don’t want your girlfriend to take inspiration from the aforementioned YouTube clip, it might be an idea to put that control pad down and face up to reality.

By Pauline Dunne