Robin Williams – Icon

Robin WilliamsNanu nanu.

Robin Williams was a true icon. One of the rare people who carved out their own chunk of the cultural landscape.

Since the news of Williams’ death last night I’ve noticed a few of my friends recalling cinema memories of Mrs. Doubtfire. For me the first cinema trip I remember was to see Aladdin, it wasn’t my first time at the cinema, I was already familiar with cinema, this trip just happened to to be the first one to crystallise firmly in my memory. Similarly, it wasn’t my first introduction to Robin Williams. He’d already somehow woven himself into the background fabric of life. Williams was just an integral part of the world as I understood it, even at five. Before I even had a concept of the line between actors and characters, I had Robin Williams carved in my psyche. I remember watching reruns of Mork and Mindy in my pyjamas, it was one of the first shows I paid attention to the broadcast schedule for so I could watch it all the time. By the time Mrs. Doubtfire came about I was already familiar enough with Williams that his presence on the posters made me want to go see it

Williams was so much a part of the landscape, but that doesn’t mean he just blended in. Williams standing out from the crowd was part of his basic presence. Just thinking about him now I’m struck by how many of his films stick so clearly in my memory. There’s the movie I remember my aunt renting for us when she babysat, Toys. I loved that movie at the time, and got very overexcited when I caught it on TV recently. I remember pulling out the video of Fern Gully almost every other Saturday morning for a while. I remember getting teased when I had nightmares about Jumanji, even though the film didn’t actually scare me as I watched it. I remember an adult Peter Pan finally remembering his childhood in Hook. And now I’m sitting here with my own childhood washing over me and realising just how much a part of it Robin Williams was.

Then there was the juxtaposition between Patch Adams and Awakenings, both Williams in medical roles, my sister loved the drama one, I loved the comedy one. Actually my sister introduced me to a lot of Williams drama roles, Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society. . .

Not that I didn’t enjoy Williams in his drama roles. He deserved his Oscar for Good Will Hunting but he was also fantastic in a number of underrated films. Like One Hour Photo, the friendliness and warmth of Williams folded perfectly into the psychotic loner he played there. And then there’s one of the most underrated films of all time, Bicentennial Man. Much derided, but I genuinely consider it one of the greatest films ever made.

To many Williams style did get quite old, he was mocked and impersonated and caricatured. It’s extremely unfortunate that in his return to television in The Crazy Ones, he was reduced to playing a parody of himself. I’ve listened to a lot of bashing of Williams, calling him out as something of a one trick pony, easily impersonated. On some level being that easy to impersonate is a sign of sameness. But it can also be a sign of uniqueness, and unique is an extremely difficult thing to bring into a career as diverse as Robin Williams has had. He hammered out a style such that his roles became something impossible for anyone else to emulate without immediately drawing unfavourable comparisons. He built himself a persona such that a whole new subgenre of film needed to be developed because executives saw that the world needed Robin Williams vehicles. He was a great star to latch a on to, making his roles instantly memorable.

These films are all part of the popculture landscape, with Williams’ head Mount Rushmored upon them all.

My favourite Williams story is from when he was recording for Aladdin. At the same time Steven Spielberg was shooting Schindler’s List, a shoot which could inevitably get quite depressing, so Spielberg would occasionally give Williams a call and ask him to improv some comedy to cheer up his cast and crew. Many of those improvisations made it into the final cut of Aladdin.

Who can we call on to cheer us up now?


How I fell in love with Ice Hockey


I never normally write about sport, this blog is predominantly about movies or political things that piss me off. Not a normal mix of topics to be sure, so that makes me a little bit more at ease with throwing sport into the fray.

At the moment it’s the playoffs in the NHL, I love the playoffs, many people do, but given that it’s only day 3, not enough hockey has happened to sate my appetite. Particularly seeing as my favourite team, the Boston Bruins, has only played one game so far, and they lost it. So I’m writing this largely so I can stay immersed in hockey. If other people enjoy it, bonus.

I had a few ideas about what specifically this post might be about; The Bruins’ path to the Playoffs, why I love Ice Hockey, my feelings on losing game one, fan reactions to the game, and what I think about Milan Lucic (Bruins) whacking an unsuspecting Danny Dekeyser (Detroit Red Wings) in the nuts away from play. I finally decided that it would make the most sense to start with how an Irish guy with no previous passion for sport fell in love with ice hockey in the first place.


Can't deny, this was a dick move

It’s not exactly normal for someone like me to fall in love with Ice Hockey. There isn’t a culture of Ice Sports in Ireland. Ireland did send a team to this year’s winter olympics (an olympic team, not an actual Ice Hockey team), but nobody cared, Irish media didn’t cover the games, and none of the Irish athletes actually live in Ireland, they were all emigrants. I myself have been on an ice rink about five times in my life, and have never spent any amount of time in a very hockey obsessed location (I did spend a fortnight in Toronto once, but that was during the hockey off season, and I was at a music conference, which didn’t actually include any Canadians).

So how did it start? Well, with a hat. My Dad has friends who live in Boston and one year when I was about 8, he went to visit them. They sent him home with 3 baseball caps, one each for myself and each of my siblings. They represented the three major Boston Sports franchises (not counting the New England Patriots, ‘cos they’re not the Boston Patriots anymore). The only logo we recognised was the Red Sox, they are after all, probably the most famous team out of the caps we were sent. America has been putting baseball into its cultural exports for years, and the Sox are a big franchise. The cap, naturally enough, was red, and my sister liked it, so she took that one.

There was also a bright green Celtics cap. We recognised this one simply because it actually said “Boston Celtics” on it, and the logo includes a basketball. Without these clues we would have had absolutely no idea what the cap was, we had never even heard of the Celtics. The Celtics logo is a leprechaun spinning a basketball. To many Americans with dubious Irish heritage, which of course includes Boston Irish, the leprechaun is a symbol of pride in their roots. In Ireland the view of leprechauns is much less positive, they are a source of many a facepalm at a woefully misguided take on Irish culture. Leprechauns are a symbol of the magical faerie land of “faith and begorrah” and farmers riding their carts past thatched cottages greeting pedestrians with a “top o’ the morning”. They are a symbol of a backwards Ireland that never actually existed, but apparently many Americans believe the land is currently like. My friends and I used to spend summers messing with American tourists who believed in this ridiculous image. They’d ask where they can find leprechauns, and we’d tell them to start digging holes cos they live underground, or go for a pointless trek in the woods. We even managed to convince some of them that a ginger friend was himself a leprechaun. There were also the more enterprising guys who would charge American tourists money to take them on a wild goose chase in the wilderness. These Americans were generally the ones who, back home, took the most pride in their Irish heritage, and forced their children into Irish dancing and céilís, and drank shite Guinness in “traditional” Irish pubs which no self respecting actual Irish person would ever set foot in. They invariably engaged in these “Irish” activities way more than any Irish person I’ve ever known, and generally these interpretations of Irish activities were highly warped from reality. And the symbol of all the kitsch shite is the fucking leprechaun. So when three Irish kids with zero interest in sport, nevermind American sport, were presented with three American sports caps, one of which featured a leprechaun, it was unanimously agreed that this was the shittiest cap and therefore that one was awarded to my brother, who was the youngest and couldn’t protest.


Celtics' godawful logo

And that left the third cap. It was plain black and featered a spoked wheel with a B on it. Even though the other two caps were for sports teams, we didn’t automatically assume that this one was. However, I thought it was a cool cap and was only delighted when it turned out to be the one I got. I had literally no idea what that spoked B represented.

Fast forward a few years, to when I was about 12. I was over at a friends house to play PlayStation games. He had just gotten one of EAs NHL games, not even the latest one, it was a loaner from another friend who had had it a few years. It was probably NHL ’96. Sports games weren’t usually my thing, I tended to get my ass kicked by people who were actually into sports and therefore played these kind of games more often, but we decided to throw it on, primarily because our selection of 2 player games was quite bad, and we had already played WWF SmackDown to death. We figured since both of us were fairly unfamiliar with Ice Hockey (the extent of our familiarity was pretty much limited to having seen The Mighty Ducks) neither of us would be at a disadvantage. So we fired it up and arbitrarily started to scroll through the team selection. We were just looking for ones that had the most rating stars beside their names, since we didn’t actually expect to recognise any of the names. But then, lo and behold, up cropped a spoked B, the same B from that baseball cap I still loved and still wore. It was the logo of the Boston Bruins. Naturally I chose to play as the Bruins, with the hope that the team would be as awesome as my favourite hat. I have absolutely no recollection of how well I played, but now I knew who the Boston Bruins were.

Over the years I became gradually more familiar with Ice Hockey. I started to recognise more team names, like the New York Rangers and the Red Wings. I was shocked to discover that that Mighty Ducks movie got turned into an actual team (now the Anaheim Ducks, based next to fucking Disneyland). I was even more shocked years later to discover that the Disneyland team was actually respected. I’m now aware that they are a good team worthy of respect, but I still think their origin story is a a bit of a joke. Speaking of origin stories, I also discovered the origin of Ice Hockey in the first place, or one of the theories anyway. Apparently it was started by a bunch of Irish emigrants in Canada who tried to play hurling on frozen lake. That is just balls to the wall awesome.

Also through this time my school football team was doing really well, so I started to pay more attention and offer some support. Some of the guys in my school were involved in the Laois county team, so I supported them a bit too. Paying more attention to Gaelic Football had the knock on effect of making me pay a bit more attention to hurling, and I really admired the sport. Hurling is really fucking fast and very highly skilled. It is officially the fastest field sport in the world. That triggers a nice sense of national pride there.

Then I found the related fact that Ice Hockey is the fastest Team sport in the world. And it’s also crazy highly skilled, not just with the puck control with the sticks, but also the ability to skate. Ice Hockey I had decided, was cool. My fandom didn’t amount to much at this stage, every now and then I would check out some highlight reel. I was particularly interested if this highlight reel featured the Bruins, because I had decided they were my favourite team, largely due to the influence of that hat. But they were my favourite team of a sport I was only marginally interested in. By this stage I could probably bullshit my way through an Ice Hockey conversation, but I wouldn’t get membership to any fan clubs. Then I met a girl.

In 2007 I met a girl from the US who really loved her hockey, and I really liked her, so I started to bullshit my way through some hockey conversations with her. But I really needed to up my game. So I started paying a lot more attention. There was no TV coverage, and my internet connections were lousy, so I started listening to Bruins games on online radio. Given the time difference between here and the US, and the fact that most hockey games are evening affairs, I generally stayed up ’til about 1am for a game to start, and listened to the radio coverage until the game ended at about 3 or 4. This is the most radio I have ever listened to in my life.

Now radio coverage isn’t exactly the best way to get into a sport that you only have a passing familiarity with, so I supplanted my listening with frequent trips to wikipedia, to get definitions for all these hockey terms I had up to now missed. Even the basic ones like “icing” was new to me, and for the record, icing is a way trickier rule to wrap your head around than offsides in soccer, even if once you do get it, it’s ridiculously simple.

So during all this research to impress a girl, something interesting happened, I fell completely in love with Ice Hockey. On paper that whole “fastest team sport” and “highly skilled” stuff led me to approve of this sport when I couldn’t care less about any others (even hurling, which while I still respect, doesn’t hold my interest very well in practice), but actually paying attention to the game brought it to a whole new level. It’s freaking amazing. And there’s also the level of how freakin’ brutal it is. It’s not all high speed skill and pirouettes, people get demolished by hits on the ice, it’s a standard part of play, that doesn’t slow things down. I remember an old youtube clip of a Rangers (I think) player, who gets hit with a wayward skate which slits his damn throat, so he skates back to the bench and asks for the medic. I’m used to hearing about soccer players, which while I do think they get too much flak for going down easy, still get sidelined for a month and a half for a stubbed toe. Meanwhile, just last year in Boston for the playoffs, Gregory Campbell dove in front of a 3 inch disc of hardened rubber travelling at about 100 miles an hour to block a shot with his leg which broke and he just kept playing, and not just mulling through staying upright on the ice. The Bruins were already under pressure at this point, they were outnumbered with a guy in the penalty box. It was 5 on 4, a situation which has roughly a 20% chance of conceding a goal, and now one of those 4 had a broken leg. But Campbell still managed to effectively shutdown his section of the ice as the opposition kept up a sustained attack until the penalty ended, Bruins got their man back from the penalty box, and Campbell could finally get off the ice.

At the end of the playoffs it was revealed that Patrice Bergeron, one of the top players who was key to the Bruins’ performance, was playing with a broken rib and punctured lung. This is not only a game where it’s possible to get hit so hard that your own chest stabs you, but that injury, and the 100% probability of getting hit that hard again, several times, is not a disincentive  enough for the players to stop playing it. Bad. Ass.

The girl who I was trying to impress I have moved well past, but my love of Ice Hockey remains. In fact, when that girl moved back to the US, she left a trail of Ice Hockey fans in her wake. Though brilliantly, no Rangers fans, who are her team of choice, which I find a little hilarious.

So a hat, a video game, and a girl led to a passion for a great sport. It’s not exactly the usual route for a fan, but I actually quite like it. As a kid I was a Manchester United fan because most of the kids I knew growing up did, so I suffered less bullying than if I picked another team, or admitted that I didn’t give a flying fuck about soccer. With Ice Hockey I didn’t have any kind of peer pressure, just a gradual increase in awareness and love for a great sport. I was lucky as well, 2007 was a good time to start getting into the Bruins. Back then they were very middle of the league. Some years they made the playoffs, some years they didn’t. There was no sense of jumping on the bandwagon of a dominant team, nor were they so shite that following them was a constant heartache, but over the years I’ve followed them, the Bruins have gotten stronger and stronger, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 (causing riots in Vancouver, dem Canadians love dem sum hockey) and this year they won the league. It’s been nice to follow the rise. It’s nice to have a passion for a sport. It’s nice to have a good hat.


An awesome hat

The Continuing Success of The Missing Scarf

The Missing ScarfI’m finding the delayed response between working on a project, and that project going out into the world to be rather strange. It’s almost a year since the script for The Missing Scarf was finalised and my role with the project diminished significantly. It was a fun few months seeing the words on the page turn to scenes on a screen and sounds from George Takei. But now the film is out and it’s picking up awards like there’s no tomorrow.

I’m incredibly proud of my work on The Missing Scarf, inspired by the amount of work Eoin is putting in (the work of creating the thing was impressive, obviously, but the work he’s doing now on the festival run is equally impressive) and delighted to have worked Eoin and Jamie both.

Getting onto the Oscars Shortlist blows my mind. There are 10 films. Ten. And we’re one of them, to say it’s a career highlight would be an understatement. I’ve been writing articles on the Oscars for years, if I do one this year I can’t write about the animated shorts category because of extreme bias! Also, I can’t believe Pixar didn’t make the list this year. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Pixar, their track record is undeniably phenomenal, yet somehow, we beat them to a place on the list. We’re on a list with Walt Disney Animation and several other excellent shorts, some of which we’ve already bumped into on the festival circuit. There are all sorts of reasons to get tense or nervous about January 16th, when the final nominations are announced. But I’m too busy just being incredibly excited.

Of course, it’s not just the Oscars, the last few weeks and months have been incredibly exciting as The Missing Scarf is doing great on the festival circuit. Of the 8 Festivals which The Missing Scarf has been in that offer a prize for Best Animated Short, we’ve won 5 of them, and got an Honourable Mention in another. Plus, at Seminici, The Missing Scarf won Best European Short, which is the first time an animation has ever won this category, that win is also automatically a nomination for the European Film Academy Awards.

The Full List of Awards (and nominations) is:

The James Horgan Award For Best AnimationGalway International Film Fleadh
Best AnimationLos Angeles International Short Film Festival
Honourable Mention; (Best Irish) – Blackrock Animation Film Festival
Best Animated FilmNew Hampshire Film Festival
Best European Short FilmSeminici
Best Animated FilmSavannah Film Festival
Best AnimationIndie Memphis Film Festival
Best European Short Film NomineeEuropean Film Academy Awards

Next Festival is Cork Film Festival. The Missing Scarf screens at 3.30pm on Friday November 15th in Triskel Arts Centre. I’ll be down at the Festival from Saturday, and Producer Jamie Hogan will be there too.

And here’s some Press for The Missing Scarf, cos the seeing the coverage roll out has been a lot of fun:
RTÉ News
The Irish Times
The Irish Independent

The Missing Scarf wins Best Animation at Galway Film Fleadh

The Missing ScarfSo I’m just back from a great time at the Galway Film Fleadh. I was up for the premiére of The Missing Scarf which I served as script editor on. The audience reaction was great, we got the laughs we wanted and other less overt responses we wanted to other parts. My heart was pounding through the opening scene, but settled quickly. It was a true pleasure hearing George Takei putting such force behind words I had committed to page.

After the show there was a nice bit of buzz with friends and family who came for the screening. Unfortunately Eoin (Duffy, writer/animator/director) couldn’t make it from Vancouver but Jamie (Hogan, producer) was there in great form. Apparently he had been sitting right behind the judges for the screening and they seemed to react really well to The Missing Scarf.

That evening a I got a chance to attend an IFB mixer and had some good chats with a nice scattering of people up for the Fleadh. There was nice feedback for The Missing Scarf there and I also got a chance to chat with some of the people behind some of the other shorts which I really enjoyed.

I didn’t stick around for Sunday as I had stunt training and fittings for Vikings to attend, as well as my girlfriend’s birthday party, but I awoke to some great news this morning. Jamie got a call yesterday that he should make sure to attend the Fleadh awards ceremony, apparently his assessment of the judges reaction had been accurate, The Missing Scarf was up for something.

And not something small either, we won the big one! The James Horgan Award for Best Animation. Not only is this win supremely awesome in its own right, but it makes The Missing Scarf eligible for consideration in next year’s Oscars!

Eoin tells me that The Missing Scarf has a fairly busy touring schedule ahead of it and will be seen in a few festivals over the coming year. I’ll put up a full schedule when I see it but so far one that I’m fully aware of is the The Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. This is the biggest shorts festival in the world and features over 200 short films from around the world. Like Galway, LA is another feeder festival to the Oscars. We’re delighted not only to have gained entry to that festival, but The Missing Scarf was selected as one of just six films to screen on opening night.

I really do wish Eoin and Jamie the very best of luck for the future of The Missing Scarf, and I’m looking forward to whatever project I can get my teeth into next.

The James Horgan Award For Best Animation 2013 - The Missing Scarf

How did the abortion debate descend into sane vs crazies?

Let me preface this post by stating that I am solidly pro-choice. I believe that abortion is far too complex an issue for a one-size-fits-all law to work. There will always be a scenario where the law is too restrictive, so the law should be as open as possible, and let people assess their individual circumstances.

That being said; pro-life is a logical position, or at least it can be. It doesn’t make sense that such a clear left-wing/right-wing division has arisen on this. Nor why the pro-life campaign has been completely monopolised by such psychos as Youth Defence. I completely understand how someone can be adamantly anti-abortion. To a certain extent, everyone is a little bit anti-abortion. Take the scenario that a perfectly healthy baby is due to be born, obviously an abortion the day before that baby’s due date is just plain wrong. This is clearly a ridiculous example but it gives a decent jumping off point for the argument.

There comes a time in the development of a foetus where abortion is just plain unacceptable. The day before the due date is past that point, but we don’t really know where that point is, nor can we. Some might argue it’s when the nervous system develops, but fully develops? The first signs of it? or some point in between? Is this point when consciousness begins? Well when is that? Or is it when the soul takes hold? When is that? Is that even a real thing? There is no concrete point we can point to and say “That is when these molecules become human.”

Instead everyone makes their own judgement on it. And it’s not even a concrete decision, it’s a gut instinct. When a couple are having a child. They don’t decide on an arbitrary point on a calendar that they’re looking forward to when they can say “this is real now.” It’s a feeling that grows as the pregnancy continues. That feeling can be stronger earlier or later for different people, it can even be earlier or later for the same couple in different pregnancies.

While there can never be a definitive moment in a pregnancy for people to point to, there does seem to be something of a general consensus around 20 weeks. It’s not true for everyone, and it’s very broad and loose estimation, but 20 weeks seems to be the number that sticks, and hence it’s become an important before/after point for abortion acceptability in international debates.

But what if, for you personally, The Point is significantly earlier than 20 weeks? Whether people agree with you or not is kind of irrelevant, as it’s a personal instinct, and that’s all anyone has to base this judgement on. But if you believe that The Point is actually around the one week mark, then how can you not be outraged that it could be nationally acceptable to obtain an abortion after that point? If you’re outraged at the thought of a baby being aborted a day before its due date, that’s because that is obviously well past The Point. At a day before the due date, everyone agrees with you that that’s well past The Point. But as you go back further in time over a pregnancy, into the fuzzy realm of an entire society’s personal instincts, the further back you go, the less people will agree with you. And while arguments can be made for different points, the fact is that no answer is right, and no answer is wrong. Even if you gathered all possible data, facts and figures, the best you can come up with is maybe defining a point after which The Point has certainly occurred, but you still don’t know exactly when it did occur.

If the government were trying to pass a bill allowing the abortion of healthy babies the day before they’re due, there would quite rightly be uproar. It is therefore perfectly understandable that there are people who are passionately opposed to abortions past when they feel The Point is. If someone believes The Point is extremely early in a pregnancy, you can’t exactly call them wrong, as gut feelings are all anyone has to go on, and you can’t blame them for being furious at the idea of abortions past that point. You don’t have to agree with them, but you can’t blame them for their passion.

I understand why people are pro-life, I understand why people are so passionate about it. I see a logical reason for it. But why do I never see this logic in their campaigning? Instead I see scripture and shouty slogans and pictures labelled as scenes of abortion (but which most of the time are wildly inaccurate). There is space for a healthy debate here, and healthy debate is what we need. Long after the current argument over legislation has passed, no matter what the government does or does not do, this is a debate that needs to keep happening as it is an important choice that needs to be weighed seriously. But instead of healthy debate we have Youth Defence and their ilk being outrageously crazy. And on the other side, we have a movement of people outraged by Youth Defence’s outrageousness drowning out the voices of people trying to actually discuss the issues at hand.

Youth Defence are an easy target though, they invite so much vitriol and attack that sometimes they get attacked for the wrong reasons. Take for example one of their poster campaigns this year featuring a picture of a woman with the slogan “abortion tears her life apart”. There was uproar over that, and several complaints to the advertising standards authority. But this was a picture of a model, hence they were portraying a character, a character whose life had been torn apart by their decision to have an abortion. That is not a ridiculous scenario, many women suffer for years from the weight of their decision to have an abortion, their lives can in fact be torn apart. I know women who have struggled with that choice for many years, just as I know women who have managed to find a peace relatively quickly. Youth Defence saying that having an abortion can tear a woman’s life apart isn’t inaccurate, it would only be inaccurate if they said it always tears their life apart, which they didn’t. But the real problem with Youth Defence’s position, is just because a woman suffers with the weight of their decision, doesn’t mean it wasn’t their decision to make.

Another thing Youth Defence gets slammed on is that they are largely funded by Americans. To call this a serious stain on Youth Defence is hypocrisy. Many left wing organisations in this country are funded by Americans and have been for years. Ireland doesn’t have a decent philanthropic infrastructure and advocacy groups on all kinds of issues, left wing and right, have been depending on american money for years. It’s not problematic that pro-lifers get american money, because pro-choice gets american money too. The problem with Youth Defence is the particular Americans they get their money from are despicable, hate-filled, bigoted cretins.

There is a decent argument to be had from the pro-life side. An argument we should hear, just as they should hear our arguments. But as long as pro-lifers in this country keep spouting scripture and hatred, we’re never going to get that healthy debate we so desperately need.

Disclaimers: I described a couple experiencing pregnancy, as opposed to just a woman. This is not some kind of judgement against single mothers or any other kind of scenario not necessarily involving a couple. It is simply my perception of the experience of pregnancy as I know it best, having experienced it as part of a couple (though obviously I didn’t experience nearly as much of it as the other part of the couple did).

Some people are going to get angry that I seem to have drawn a comparison between an abortion the day before a due date, and a day after conception. The day before the due date is an extreme example, but I needed an example I was pretty positive no-one would disagree with for being an awful time for an abortion. You can try and transpose it to an earlier time if you’d like, but you’ll soon encounter the fuzzy mess of uncertainty as you try to define a concrete point.

Other people aren’t going to like my slamming of scripture spouting. I have a healthy respect for people of faith, even if I’m not one myself. My girlfriend is christian and our daughter is baptized and being raised to experience christianity before she makes her own choices. But religion has no place in this debate. If your sole argument against abortion is that it’s against your religion, then you’re only ever going to convince people who already share your convictions. If you want to get through to people about this issue, talk to them about this issue in universal terms, not terms restricted to your faith. And if your goal is to convert people to your faith; then in the middle of an already fraught and heated debate is not the time or place to do it.

Still more people are going to get mad at me for any number of things I’ve said in this post. All I can say is, I’m not here to piss people off (except maybe Youth Defence because whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, those people are fucking disgusting). If I’ve phrased something particularly poorly, I’ll try to clarify, if I’m objectively and demonstrably wrong about any aspect, I’ll correct it. And most importantly, if there are alternative opinions, I will listen and take them seriously. If people are still mad at me then, well that’s just the price of doing business.

Boycott Hit & Run

Next month Hit & Run opens in Irish cinemas. I urge you to boycott this movie. Trust me, you won’t be missing out on much. It’s an action-comedy starring Dax Shaepard and Kristen Bell. He plays a guy in witness protection, she plays his girlfriend. When Bell gets a job offer in LA, he ignores his witness protection and drives her to LA. This leads to the bad guys he testified against tracking him down.

It’s a nice little set up and the film pulls it off reasonably well. It’s a little slapdash and uneven in tone. Overall it’s a grand movie that’s also very forgettable. Under normal circumstances I’d give it three stars, though I’ve been told that’s a little generous given how very forgettable the whole affair is.

There is one aspect of this film however, which is not forgettable. It is downright disgraceful and writer/co-director/star Dax Shepard should be ashamed of himself. This film does not deserve to make money.

This film features the worst taste rape jokes I have ever seen.

I’m not an easy person to offend, normally you’ll hear me arguing that either everything’s fair game for comedy, or nothing is. I myself have made rape jokes. But I believe how those jokes are constructed is incredibly important. You can make rape jokes where you ridicule the rapist. You can make rape jokes where the act of rape is mocked. You can use the word in a context that is just outlandish and ridiculous. I know plenty of people will disagree with me, they will say that there is no circumstance where rape jokes are acceptable. But that doesn’t matter here. I think it’s safe to say that Hit & Run shows the worst possible way to make rape jokes.

The first example is in a conversation between Annie (Bell) and Debbie (Kristen Chenoweth). Debbie is talking about the shitty jobs they have in a small town college, and that Annie deserves better things. Debbie is trying to convince Annie to go for a nice job in the University of California because she deserves the nice job. Debbie believes she doesn’t deserve a nice job, she’s where she’s supposed to be. Debbie believes that she’s lived an irresponsible life and the crap job is her penance. Debbie in no way feels bitter about this, she’s quite chirpy in recognising this fact, but her exact words to characterise her irresponsible past are: “You know, I got date raped, I’ve had the abortions. I got what I deserved.”

At first this seems merely horrific. Nobody deserves to get date raped. Nobody deserves to have an abortion. But fortunately, that’s not exactly what’s meant. The real meaning is far, far worse. She’s not saying that rape and abortion are what she deserves, she’s saying that her shitty job in a shitty college in a shitty small town is her punishment for the sin of getting date raped and having an abortion in the first place.

This speech is comedy. This speech is mined for laughs. This woman cheerily accepts her punishment for the sin of being raped in a manner designed to elicit laughter. What the hell is wrong with the makers of this film that they thought that this was okay?

Later on in the film there is another joke involving rape. This time Annie tries to come up with an example of awful human beings. She picks “rapists”. That’s fine, that’s acceptable. But given the awful joke from earlier, this still made me uncomfortable.

There is then, near the end of the film, another awful joke. A joke where the punchline is “I got raped.” To be fair the exact words are “I got buttfucked.” But given the context, it is rape being referred too. Shepard obviously just decided that “buttfucked” was a funnier sounding word.

At first I thought this was just another example of the tone in this film being remarkably uneven. That the line wasn’t supposed to be a joke, but more of a dramatic moment. But then the joke was repeated. And then the film spent at least five minutes wringing as many “jokes” as possible out of this man’s admission that he was raped. The concept of this guy being raped is apparently hilarious. All the characters in this scene with the exception of Shepard’s character seem to get that this is a serious issue. So there is an argument to be made that the humour comes from one guy not being able to process the gravity of the situation. But that one guy is the hero of the movie, the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for and who we’re supposed to feel a connection to. All this scene does is alienate the lead. So realistically this scene isn’t designed to tell us more about the hero, it’s purely there to make an admission of rape seem hilarious.

So first this film makes being the victim of date rape a punishable offense, it then uses “I got raped” as a punchline before milking the joke for all they can. This is not acceptable.

It’s a pretty average and forgettable film apart from these incidences, so you’re really not missing out on anything by not seeing it. But this film does not deserve to make money. Do not let this film make any money. Boycott it. Send a message that this kind of joke is not acceptable. It’s probably not a bad idea to boycott anything Dax Shepard ever produces.

If you’re really curious about the movie, at the very least download a pirate copy, so that nobody involved makes any money.

Why I’m voting Yes to policies I disagree with

So I’ve managed to land at a rather complicated position regarding tomorrow’s referendum. I don’t agree with the methods of attaining economic success as outlined by the treaty, but I still think that voting Yes is the right call. Allow me to try and explain why.

I will warn you before I begin, I am by no stretch an economist, my understanding comes from reading opinions and analyses from people far more qualified than I to interpret the treaty. As a result there’s a decent chance that I say something incredibly stupid or overlook some significant fact here. I don’t think I have, but if you notice any errors, please let me know in the comments.

I believe in free and open markets, I believe that consumer purchasing habits should be the primary mover in any economy and that tax collection should be driven by increasing the number of transactions, rather than from raising taxes. Taxing your way out of a recession is not the way to go. I believe that you have to spend money to make money. On a national level much of that money should be spent on education. Entrepreneurs create jobs and the best way to make sure there are as many possible entrepreneurs is to ensure that all potential entrepreneurs are educated to a level whereby they have the know-how to set-up or improve businesses.

In order to allow a government to be able to fund this kind education, as well as many other incentives and programmes, they need to be able to borrow. They need to be able to invest. They need to be able to plan on spending more money than they have, provided that they have made a reasonable estimate as to how much of a return on their investment they will receive. The ‘balanced budget rule’ of the Fiscal Treaty essentially eliminates this ability. By capping the structural deficit at 0.5% governments can’t spend more than they have. This seems like a logical position but what it really means is that governments can’t make big investments in the future. The economy can’t be encouraged to boom, there’ll just be a steady trickle of growth.

The view is that this also means that there can’t really be a bust either. But economies are supposed to boom and bust. We just don’t want the boom to hit the heights of the Celtic Tiger, otherwise the bust at the far end will be just as painful. Economic policy is a delicate area, managing a boom is just as important as managing a bust, but for there to be any real change and development the rough up/down pattern must continue. By enforcing the ‘balanced budget rule’ economies will move at a glacial state.

One upside of this slow moving economy is that it allows for the Euro to be saved. Yes the Fiscal treaty makes for a slow moving economy, but it is stable enough to allow the Euro to be saved. If none of the rules in this treaty are enforced, the Euro will fail. A Yes saves the Euro.

Many of you may be saying now; “who cares? Let the Euro fail.” Well I oppose that view for a couple of reasons. Number 1; reverting to individual currencies for the Eurozone would result in an unholy economic shitstorm. Each country would grapple with their own plans for a changeover while also trying to work together for a unified plan. Larger and more influential countries would be in a better position to control the EU policy of the changeover so smaller, and economically weaker countries like Ireland, would have to work extremely hard to keep their heads above the water. If the Euro were to fail now, things would get a lot worse before they got better. And even if our economy did survive such a massive changeover, there would be a phenomenal amount of uncertainty as to how to move forward afterwards.

The second reason I’m opposed to dropping the Euro is because I believe that it is a step in the right direction toward more unity in Europe. The Euro has been criticised for trying to operate a single currency without the advantage of a single central government, like the US has. But the longer that the Euro exists, the more countries must therefore cooperate to help make it work. The central government of the EU would have to become stronger and more efficient and gradually the need for economic borders would dissolve. With economic borders dissolving, so too would other borders. Nationalistic squabbles would die out. I believe the Euro is a step toward uniting the people of this planet and making our goals and interests more shared and aligned. So I want the Euro to continue.

All of this is rather irrelevant however, as whether the treaty is passed or not, most of the rules are already in place due to other EU agreements and directives. This is not a choice between an open economy and a 0.5% structural deficit limit, it’s a choice between a 0.5% limit and a 1% limit. The structural deficit is already limited to 1%. Another 0.5% doesn’t really make a huge hell of a difference. But there are some things which are different.

Firstly, if we don’t ratify the treaty we have to hit that 1% limit by 2015, whereas if we ratify the treaty we have until 2019. Meaning we can allow more time to allow the economy to grow (which it is doing) in order to hit the target rather than having to rapidly implement a mountain of new taxes in order to reach the target.

Voting Yes would also mean that we would have access to the ESM fund to hit our target if we needed to. Campaigners for a No vote have said that we still have access to other funds, they’re right, we do. But those other sources would likely have higher interest rates and more would have to be borrowed in a smaller amount of time, so it would cost us more money in the long run. Some No campaigners have even insisted we would still have access to the ESM. That’s pretty tricky, I don’t know if we do, but if we do it would be a hack of a lot more difficult to get at, and we’d have to borrow more money more quickly, meaning greater debt and interest to be paid. Quite simply, a No vote means higher taxes very quickly, a Yes vote means slow growth in the economy as we move forward.

In the short term, a Yes vote makes it easier for us to reach our obligations. We have more support and more time to comply with EU regulations. So a Yes vote makes more sense. In the long term however, we get locked into an economic plan which discourages real growth and open investment. But that doesn’t really matter, because by the time we get to the long term, this treaty will be largely relaxed and/or dismantled.

Back in 2003 France and Germany breached a 3% deficit limit imposed by the Stability & Growth Pact (under the Maastricht Treaty, which established the Euro in the first place). So what happened? Germany and France used their clout to have the rules relaxed. At the moment the Fiscal Treaty and it’s austerity measures have been pushed by France and Germany, particularly by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. But Sarkozy got voted out of office this year and Merkel is likely to experience the same fate next year. Europeans are rejecting Austerity measures. So in the not too distant future the two most powerful EU countries will be led by governments opposed to the type of Austerity plans laid out in this treaty. This treaty does however make it more difficult for those countries to change the rules, they need far more cooperation from the other EU countries to make changes, but it won’t take too long before the other nations, including Ireland, are finding economic growth limited due to this treaty. It’s going to become very unpopular so more than likely it’s going to get changed.

To try and avoid this change, the Fiscal Treaty says that it would be preferable to have some of its provisions constitutionally enshrined. That is a bad plan, we need the ability to dismantle this treaty later, so if we’re ever asked in a referendum to put the measures of this treaty directly into our constituion, be sure to vote No.

The EU is constantly evolving and changing, there is going to be greater economic cooperation which fosters additional cooperation. Meaning that in the long term, this treaty will become increasingly irrelevant, both as it’s policies are rejected as we exit this phase of extreme economic pessimism, and as the EU evolves to a more experienced and unified entity.

So in the short term, this treaty helps Ireland stabilise and makes it easier to achieve our economic targets, while in the long term, this treaty will become more irrelevant. If we stuck with this treaty to the letter in the long run, then yes, that would be rather rubbish, but I really don’t see that happening. Economies are robust and unpredictable things, driven by confidence. As Ireland and Europe become more confident, economies should improve and policy will reflect that. A No vote triggers panic mode, meaning things would get much worse before they got better. A Yes vote gives enough confidence to help pump up an economy, and a pumped up economy rejects austerity easily.