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The Olympic Opening Ceremony, Britain’s latest Bond Girl and a rather bizarre tribute to the NHS!

According to the BBC last night they had an audience share of 82%, with ratings soaring to 27 million during the three and a half hour spectacle. Despite the extortionate viewing figures, we can all admit that the level of hype and the highest level of secrecy surrounding the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony sparked our curiosity and drove the majority of us to tune in last night to what was undoubtedly at times one of the most atypical ceremonies ever witnessed.

£27million for the creation of Danny Boyle’s highly anticipated spectacle, but was it worth it?

As most adoring Olypmic fans and Brits praised the creative showpiece, I for one am not in total agreement that the Olympic Opening Ceremony truly was magnificent.

As the titles rolled and we sat in anticipation for what was definitely a memorable beginning to any Olympic Games, and as Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins rang the Olympic Bell I wondered what would lie in store. Was I the only one who thought school was out for the summer, only to feel like I’d been summoned to my living room chair for a British history lesson courtesy of Danny Boyle. However, despite this busy showcase, I urged myself to keep watching if only to see Katie Taylor lead the Irish Team into the Olympic Stadium. As my knowledge on the industrial revolution was restored and the inclusion of Sir Kenneth Branagh reading from Shakespeare’s The Tempest , I firmly believed that that opening ceremony could only get better, not so, as a rather bizarre tribute to the NHS ensued. I wondered what befit its place in this show, as they celebrated the NHS, up popped Harry Potter characters, and down came an influx of Mary Poppins. Was I dreaming?  Unfortunately, I wasn’t, as the peculiarities were set to continue.

Just as we began to come to terms with what we were visualising, Daniel Craig appeared on the big screen as his 007 character with Britain’s latest, and possibly oldest bond girl to date, the Queen herself. She made a cameo appearance in a comical sketch filmed at Buckingham Palace culminated by her arrival into the Olympic Stadium seemingly parachuting from an overhead helicopter with the James Bond star. As stuntsman Gary Connery makes his landing wearing a similar dress to her majesty, and the camera quickly turns on the Queen who walks into the Stadium. Yes, Danny you fooled the world there with a stunt like that!

The ceremony moved to celebrate music and social media with dance performances which included the appearance of Dizzee Rascal.  Chariots of Fire was announced as the next musical composition to be played by the orchestra, only to see Rowan Akinson’s infamous character Mr Bean, take part in the composition in a satirical manner.  Confused? Yes, me too, not quite sure why his presence was required.  Apparently his comedy is well received across the globe, well if that’s the case; why not throw him into the opening ceremony too.

Next David Beckham appeared on a speedboat travelling on the final leg of the journey with the Olympic torch. Perhaps this move a little more comprehendible as he himself is a globally renowned sporting figure.

Was I the only one who thought that the antics of the Opening Ceremony were a little bizarre? Perhaps I’m one of the few honest enough to admit that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and perhaps putting on view Britain’s well known faces for comedy sketches doesn’t exactly go hand in hand with this sporting event. Was it all a mere ploy to showcase some of Britain’s most beloved celebrities? In truth, I’m not sure. Nor am I sure what Danny Boyle’s logic was in the creation of this spectacle. One thing’s for sure it did make the global headlines.

The Guardian hailed Boyle’s ‘masterpiece’ as ‘the biggest, maddest, weirdest, most heartfelt and lovable dream sequence in British cinema history’. The Mirror did notice that ‘it was hard to think of any British icon it didn’t reference’, whilst the New York Times described it as ‘visually stunning’.

For me however, it wasn’t the spectacle and the famous faces that made the night quite stunning. Instead for me, it was seeing each country enter the Olympic Stadium with the flag holder leading their country and their country’s athletes following behind. The sense of pride which lit their eyes, and the happiness that filled their faces was no comedy sketch; it was a natural reaction to the honour bestowed on them to represent their country in the 2012 Olympic Games. It was a culmination of their talent; hard work and dedication that had resulted in each one of them walking into that stadium last night.

Watching on and reading the reviews today, it felt that the most salient part of the Opening Ceremony, the introduction of the countries and their athletes to the Olympic Stadium, had been overlooked as all eyes were on some mad spectacle set to honour celebrities and not the true heroes that were present to represent us all. Whilst Daniel Craig may be the most handsome Bond we’ve had in long time, and whilst David Beckham gets better looking with age, they were not what our eyes should have been fixated on last night, it was the athletes. The fact that the media are heralding the involvement of British celebrities in the ceremony saddens me.

What saddens me even more, is the criticism the unknown young athletes who received the Olympic torch from Sir Steve Redgrave and brought it on it’s final journey to light the cauldron was deemed an ‘anti-climax’ by many across various media outlets.

John Cherwa from the LA Times wrote ‘Hated the flame lighting. Just make a decision and pick someone’.  Some went so far as to say letting seven people light the cauldron was a cop out, and that it should have been lit by a person ‘people have heard of’.  Again a reminder that we live in a celebrity crazed world that wanted a ‘famous face’ taking the torch on it’s final hurdle. The point missed by so many is that it was seven young people who had been nominated by renowned sporting figures and athletes, who wanted to inspire the new generation.  Sport is a wonderful thing; it is something comprehendible no matter your race, religion or background. It brings people together, it requires real dedication, personal commitment, motivation, ambition and passion; characteristics that can inspire us all. The lightening of the cauldron was an act to inspire the next generation, the folk that sat in their living room tuning into the Opening Ceremony with similar dreams as those, that the athletes possessed, that were presented to us tonight. Reminding us that we can dream big, and that one day we too could inspire another generation.

The ceremony concluded with the Queen officially declaring them open ‘I declare open the Games of London, celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era’ and Sir Paul Mc Cartney singing Hey Jude, as a scene of breathtaking fireworks lit the London sky line, Danny Boyle tweeted ‘Proud to be British’, I tweeted ‘Proud to be Irish’. Seeing Katie Taylor wave our flag, followed by the Irish contingent filled me with pride…for me, they were the true heroes of last night, alas, I can watch Daniel Craig on the big screen any day!

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The Voice UK – Not about the Price Tag?!

Not about the Price Tag? Whatever the reason, it looks like Jessie J and Sir Tom Jones will not be returning The Voice.

According to sources it is thought that the reason Jessie J isn’t returning as a judge on the next series of The Voice is due to a clash with her UK tour dates and the filming of the second season of the BBC show. The singer had previously received criticism for her alleged diva like behaviour on the BBC set, her refusal to do publicity for the show, and her admission on Graham Norton’s chat show that she hadn’t even bothered to watch the show back.

Meanwhile, the Welsh wonder, Sir Tom Jones, the winner of the first series with his contestant Leanne Mitchell has apparently also been advised not to return for the second season by his own management team. I for one can’t see why the man needed the gig anyhow!

Twitter crazed Will.i.am however, does look set to return, as does The Script front man Danny O’Donoghue, to the judging panel, but if rumours are to be believed there could be two new faces joining the judging panel. The BBC are also keen to make changes to the £22 million show in a bid to boost ratings in the upcoming season after they plummeted in week 10 of last year’s season.

£22 million for the creation of a show supposedly just aimed at finding ‘The Voice’ of the UK….a show based on true talent, devoid of any gimmicks (apparently). Hmm, why then the need for the massive £22million price tag?! Possibly a ploy to get Jessie J and Sir Tom back again?!Only time will tell… well that or a tweet from Will.i.am!

A Real Life Villain

We all know the villain from the movies… the vacant eyes, yet a face of terror, responsible for the most heinous of crimes. We are shielded from their acts by a cinema screen, a half eaten box of popcorn perhaps or the human shield you’re sitting next to in the comfort lined cinema seats. We’ve all been there; if you dare to admit it or not, I’m sure there was that one movie, that one scene, which ignited an element of fear within you.

Unfortunately, for the packed cinema in Colorado last Friday, at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, the villain that came to life that night was not one from the movies, but a real life villain. An incident, that within minutes resulted in the shooting dead of 12 people and causing injury to 58 others.  A man dressed in body armour and toting three guns opened fire at the midnight screening of the Batman movie. Moments after the massacre this man was apprehended.

President Obama was due to visit the town to meet victims and their families last night. This atrocity will now serve as a reminder for the President that the issue of gun control in America is one of grave salience and one which needs to be addressed immediately.

Today, that suspected gunman made his first court appearance, refusing to talk about the reasoning behind the shootings, a massacre which is undoubtedly one of the worst in US history. Police are still searching for the motive which led him to this terrible onslaught.

As the suspect sat in court, courtesy of the TV screen, the rest of the world were today sheltered from this villain; dressed in a red jailhouse jump suit, with bright red dyed hair, his glare fixated straight ahead – James Holmes, a real life villain, and one that will now haunt Colorado for life. He will face at least 71 charges, one for each victim, and may face the death penalty.

In the movies, the villains are also tried at the end, but it is then the happily ever after ensues, but not this time, the bleak realism for the people of Colorado is no happy ending, it’s a heartbreaking tale of a packed cinema screening that ended in tragedy, a tragedy that will remain with Colorado for years to come.

To the twelve victims of the Colorado Massacre– Rest In Peace.

Labour Party Conference Descends Into Chaos

In recent times politicians haven’t been topping any popularity polls, so it was no surprise that on Saturday, at the Labour Party Conference in NUI Galway that violent clashes broke out between anti-austerity protestors and Gardaí.

In the afternoon, vicious scenes of fighting were witnessed, as protestors attacked security men with flags, utilised a mock coffin as a weapon with which they breached the Garda cordon surrounding the conference and proceeded to the doors of the hall where the conference was taking place. A mere 20 Gardaí became the shielding force, acting as the sole barrier between the protestors and the conference delegates, the not so popular Labour politicians.

Resulting from these ferocious scenes was the decision to lock down the conference centre for a period of time. This however did not deter the efforts of the protestors, with one RTE camera man even succumbing to a ‘pepper spray’ ordeal at the hands of the frustrated protestors. Journalists who had attended the event to cover the protest were also threatened, and one student was finally arrested by Gardaí after reaching the windows of the conference centre.

People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, who was one of the politicians leading the demonstration, said that what was initially a peacefully demonstration had been hijacked by a plethora of other protest groups, namely the Occupy Dame Street movement, Citizens versus Charges, Shell to Sea, lone parents, anti-bin tax campaigners, DEIS schools defenders.

As bag pipes and bodhrans sounded in the background, taunts aimed at Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, echoed around the NUI Galway campus, whilst placards read ‘Don’t Register Don’t Pay’, ‘Axe the Home Tax’ and ‘Thug Hogan’ were evident to all.  

Undoubtedly this was an obvious to Phil Hogan’s reiteration on Friday night that the Government were not backing down regarding the collection of the Household Charge of €100, and would enlist the help of local authorities to pursue all those who have not paid.

To date 900,000 people have registered for the household charge. Notifications will be sent to those who have yet to pay in a similar method by which people are notified of their obligation to pay the TV licence. Phil Hogan also pointed out that “People know in these financial circumstances they must make a financial contribution for local services, and notwithstanding the fact that people are under pressure, over 900,000 people in this country have prepared to comply with the law – unlike the people outside,” referring to protestors outside a conference he delivered in Kilkenny on Friday.

So dare I say it – Are violent protests truly the correct medium to have your voice heard? Or are they just an excuse for thuggish behaviour? Does there not exist a better means through which our voice can be heard? Should these groups to meet not be given the opportunity to meet with specific political parties in an ordered manner for a healthy discussion and one which does not end in violence?

It may be the age old adage, but violence does not solve anything. Outlandish yobbish behaviour of protestors merely paints the nation in a bad light, and we could really do with not tarnishing our name any further. If we want issues addressed by government ministers we must meet with them in a different environment. Also, we must note that it is possibly the worst time to be in government, and must commend the efforts of those currently in ministerial roles, as they have quite simply landed a job that requires them to clean up a mess caused by others.

We as a nation must accept our part too in the financial recovery. Whilst we may look unfavourably at some austerity measures, and the requirement to pay the household charge, we must focus on the ways by which we will recover as a nation, and return to some form of prosperity as a country – a country we can be proud of and one we aren’t so ashamed to call home – even if that does mean adhering to the Government’s request and paying the household charge!

Young, Talented and Loaded

The Sunday Times Rich List released this week gave us every reason to be envious, as young talented actors and musicians are reeling in the big bucks!

Not solely the lead role in the Harry Potter films, but Danielle Radcliffe also took the lead role in the Young Rich List of millions with earnings totalling £54m. Who would have thought that a glasses wearing wizard boy had the potential to command such high earnings?! The earnings amassed by the Radcliffe last year were resultant of his lead role in the final instalment of Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, and the success of his most recent film, The Woman In Black also contributed to topping up his earnings by £6m this year.

It was however ‘Someone Like You’ singing sensation, Adele, who topped the young musicians poll. Her album entitled ‘21’ sold 10 million copies last year, and also trebled her wealth in the meantime soaring from earnings of £6m to £20m in a mere year. Not a bad year, eh?!

Acting remains the means by which one can amass significant earnings. This is evidenced by Robert Pattinson’s pay packet for his contributions to the Twlight Saga, which this year added a supplementary £8m to his wealth. The Twlight Star is now worth approximately £40m. Kiera Knightley features as the third highest paid actress with earnings of £30m. This starlet registered no increase to her wealth last year…. my heart bleeds for you Kiera, given the fact the rest of us were stripped of bonuses and salary increments to basic salaries, you can hardly complain!!

In 2010 Jessie J didn’t even feature in the Young Music Millionaires Top 20, but in 2011 her ‘Price tag’  (see what I did there?!) was an estimated £5m. The meteoric rise to fame of Rosie Huntington-Whitely secured the Victoria’s Secret lingerie model and now actress secured her earnings of £5m also. So it appears that it is possible to be plucked from obscurity one year, and included in the top young earners list the next, not a bad year’s work at all work for either starlet!!

It is also worth pointing out that on further inspection of the rich list, it appears that Mr Nasty himself, Simon Cowell, is behind many of youngsters listed this year. Juxtaposing his creation of several reality talent shows, and his influence in the music industry, X Factor sensations, JLS and Leona Lewis, and former X Factor judge Cheryl Cole also make the cut with earnings of £12m, £5m (per member) and £12m respectively. So whilst many will slate BGT, X Factor and the likes, there appears to be a hefty reward for those who go the distance once the talent shows come to a close. No doubt, the members of One Direction will be joining this rich list next year given the current success they are experiencing on an international scale.

So it seems the talented youth of today are earning mega bucks, I, like many others, am extremely envious, and wish there was some way I could feature on next year’s list!!  

Now to find myself a vocal coach that can cure my tone deaf singing habits and ensure I sail through an X Factor audition…. or a drama teacher who can land me a coveted walk on role in Fair City…. 

So Long Sunshine!

Don’t you just love the Irish summer? I know it’s my favourite day of the year!

This year we were somewhat luckier to experience not one day, but five days of summer in late March. Was it to be a sign of what lies ahead this year? Most definitely not!

 Last week the nation rushed for the sunglasses, the summer wardrobe, and straight to the beaches and beer gardens. All winter warmers were banished in the hope of lasting sunshine, but how wrong we were. For today a blast of polar air brought a hasty end to our early summer.  

Only last week, temperatures reached record highs for March in various parts of the country, yet we are now gearing up for freezing temperatures this Easter week.

This morning we watched television coverage as parts of Scotland were affected by a heavy snowfall, only for sleet to fall hours later on the pavements of Dublin, with temperatures expected to fall below freezing tonight and tomorrow night. Met Eireann have also predicted snowfall in the Wicklow Mountains and at high altitude across northern parts of the country.

The Easter bank holiday weekend is expected to bring milder conditions within a somewhat normal range in the low teens for April, with some rain fall also expected.

So it appears the summer is truly over (in fairness 5 days was generous by Irish standards!), and the winter remains in a confused state! So for those brave enough to take on the beer gardens ensure they are heated, for those planning a trip to the beach ditch the bikini in favour of a wetsuit, and when venturing outside bring both your sandals and your ski boots – for one never knows!!

Last week the masses were considering the possibility of a ‘staycation’ with ample rays of sunshine making Ireland an almost attractive place to be (I say almost, as the household charge, the bank bailouts, and economic crisis  have inhibited the attractiveness of the emerald isle for most!). But alas, with the re-emergence of wintery gales and freezing temperatures, it’s back to the holiday fund and our desperate pursuit of finding sunshine once more.

 

Government Remain Quiet As Divorce Rate Increases

The results of Census 2011 released this week have revealed that the number of divorcees has soared by 150 percent in the past decade to 87,770. This can be evidenced from the results of the 2002 census, the first census to be conducted following the introduction of divorce in Ireland in 1996, inside which detailed a figure of 35,059 divorcees.

In contrast to the number of divorcees, the number of separated people has marginally increased to 116,194 from 107,263 five years previous.

Expectedly, resultant of an increase in the divorce rate was an increase in the marital breakdown rate. In 2006 the marital breakdown rate was 8.7%, and this has now risen to 9.7% in 2011.

Nationwide, there was an increase of 21,800 since 2006 of co-habiting couples, with 143,600 of couples favouring co-habitation as opposed to marriage.

But all of the above are mere statistics. The reasons and the effects of divorce remains a topic largely undiscussed in Ireland. The findings by the Central Statistics Office give us reason to allow these statistics occupy the headlines, but only for a matter of days, until they become the taboo subject which will only rear its ugly head again when the next set of Census results are released.

Even then the means in which they are released is a little deceiving, if you add together the number of divorcees, people separated, and those who remarried after divorce, the number jumps to a quarter of a million. Now that’s a real headline grabber! Albeit comparative to other countries the marital breakdown rate in Ireland still remains relatively low.

Today I ask, why is there no discussion surrounding these figures? Why aren’t the government questioning the increase in divorce rates? And why is no one delving into the possible effects divorce can have on both parent and child?

Whilst reported nationwide as a mere statistic, divorce is much more. It can be for many, that lasting scar which remains unhealed for years to come. The number of children who are affected by martial breakups remains unreported and research suggesting the damage it causes children has been published on countless occasions, the impact it can have on a child’s educational attainment in the future is significant, as teachers can notice a change in a child’s behaviour subsequent to a marital breakup.

On a personal note, I am a by-product of a bitter and acrimonious martial break up, but I didn’t allow it to affect my studies. In fact, following the news, I went in to school and sat my Junior Certificate exams the next morning – my education achievement remained, thankfully, unaffected.

However it has been noted that divorce leads to a mistrust of marriage by those affected, and to that I would concur. It is this which is believed to be a factor which has contributed to the falling rates of marriages in western countries. For children who experience divorce, are reluctant to ever subject themselves to something which would lead to that experience ever again. Once bitten, twice shy as they say. This also points to the reasoning behind the increase in cohabitation in western countries including Ireland – and whilst we worry about divorce rates, further research has suggested that cohabiting parents are twice as likely to break up as married parents.

So what can we do in Ireland? Re-enact our much loved ‘brush it under the carpet’ attitude? Isn’t that where the topic of abortion and other controversial topics remain? Or utilise these figures as a wake-up call.

Surely no society wants to boast about soaring divorce rates, surely no society wants children to be affected in the long term from such an experience, and surely the government can side step talks of the bank bailouts for one day in the Dail to address a humane aspect of life here in Ireland and one effecting adults, children, and the wider society alike?

I don’t know about you Enda, but I sure am getting uncomfortable with these figures!!

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