*The world is a strange place, and getting even stranger. I am old enough to remember the excitement "colour television" brought to us.
But I'm young enough to know that life without an iPhone is becoming increasingly difficult. I seldom Tweet, and Facebook to me is just a backwater in the ocean of electronic self-indulgence that the internet has become.
Don't get me wrong, Skype and the joys of email are indispensible, it has brought people closer together on many levels, but on others, I suspect it may have driven them apart.
I am thinking of the bogus intimacy. One doesn't send someone a bothersome message, one "shares" it, thus elevating some piece of spam to a level of importance. However, what prompted me to write was the latest survey on what people get up to when they are "online".
Even that expression suggests that you are missing out on something elemental if your eyes are not fastened to a screen. You can barely be registered as being alive if you are -- God forbid -- "offline".
What sparked this rant was the report on what Irish people have been getting up to using the great power of Google.
Apparently, we have almost exhausted the search engine looking for news about Miley Cyrus and Phil Hogan. An odd pairing you'll agree.
We also apparently have an unhealthy appetite for twerking.
The foremost question on the minds of the Irish populace was not: "What is the stars?" Nor was it about the contents of the Third Secret of Fatima or how Jim Figgerty got that sweet fruit into the Fig Roll. No. The burning topic was "what is twerking?" This being the case, it was hardly surprising that the top trending "artist" was Miley Cyrus.
I didn't expect it to be Beethoven or even the Beatles, but Miley Cyrus?
I notice that this paragon of good taste, this uber-classy delicate diva, has taken to performing with a midget in her live shows.
One wonders will her new release be: "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to twerk we go."
T G Gavin
GREYSTONES, CO WICKLOW
Ye know, ye see, if ye like
* Pope Francis tells us that politics is a vocation; serving the people is a worthy calling. He has never lived in Ireland. Here, politics is a horse of a very different colour.
In my opinion, too much of politics here is play-acting. It's a word-game, the art of talking endlessly and saying nothing, Yeats's description of "polite meaningless words" lives on. If you choose a career in Irish politics, you must first learn the trade, starting preferably before the use of reason. Traditionally, the Irish politician imbibes the knack with the mother's milk. Latecomers who don't know the rules and blunder in and start blathering the blatant truth can be an embarrassment. Such a one will shape up sharp, or soon come a cropper.
The first lesson has to do with non-breathing, the knack of talking non-stop without drawing breath.
Some latecomer trainees have been known to go blue in the face, or even lose consciousness before mastering the technique. The prices people pay for the noble cause of talking endlessly and saying nothing!
The next lesson involves learning the proper words off by heart, like learning your lines for a play, which indeed it is, complete with prompter. You must have your ammunition on the tip of your tongue.
Some learn fast; with slow learners there's many a slip before they get the hang of it. Here is a short list of the standard cliches in use today. Endless repetition is standard practice. Besides, repetition has the side-effect of churning out new cliches.
You can make up your cliches on the spot. Anything goes, as long as you keep talking; the unforgiveable sin is stopping. The silent politician is a dead duck. Evidence the party whip
Here is a short list of cliches in constant use today.
The possibilities are endless: let's be clear, in terms of, in relation to, moving forward, in the near future, in recent months, yeh know, yeh see, if you like, in accordance with, policies and procedures, and on and on.
The list is endless.
Address with editor
Aiding and abetting?
* Henry Samuel reports in the World News section of the Irish Independent that the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo spent almost €1.2m on suits and shirts in Paris; that he changes his shirt three or four times a day and, according to an aide, boasts that he never washes them.
Last month, the Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, announced €3.8m in funding for this country under the Irish Aid programme, money derived from government debt borrowed on behalf of very heavily taxed Irish citizens. This is on top of over €10m in aid funding provided to Congo from the annual €600m Irish Aid programme in 2012.
We have already seen €4m defrauded by Ugandan officials from Irish Aid resources, despite the presence of an Irish embassy in that country for many years.
Irish taxpayers cannot afford to spend hundreds of millions of euro on Irish Aid, especially in jurisdictions where outrageous levels of state-sanctioned corruption and incompetence is rife.
Should Mr Costello have demanded that the president of Congo washes his expensive Parisian shirts and diverts a substantial component of the fortune he spends on himself to the welfare of his own people before telling Irish voters how their money is spent in that country?
Our foreign policy urgently needs a radical overhaul to coherently reflect the strategic needs and limited resources of the Irish people.
Glenageary, Co Dublin
Not a bailout, it's a loan
* It seems that the current Government -- who were in opposition during the building and banking crash -- absolve themselves from all responsibility for the financial crash.
Surely, their job while in opposition was to stand up and query any and every decision made or which they thought was unwise.
Thus they are just as responsible as those in charge of the outcome and eventually the so-called "bailout".
Finally, the description "bailout" should be replaced by the description "expensive loan".
Some European citizens think wrongly that the loan is a bailout and does not have to be paid back.
Those of us who were careful and cautious in our everyday dealings are paying a high price for the madness of the privileged few and this is most unjust.
At the pearly gates
* With regard to Eamon Reilly's letter in which he referred to my comparing Nelson Mandela with Gandhi (Letters, December 7) as both "ludicrous and nonsense", I would just like to make a few comments.
Firstly, writing in the 'Sunday Times', Donald Woods, quotes with regard to Mandela's book, 'Long walk to Freedom': "Mandela emulates the few great political leaders, such as Lincoln and Gandhi."
Secondly, I would in no way claim to know the full history of these two wonderful men, but no one could argue that they were not both exceptionally good human beings.
And last but not least, regarding the remark that only God will judge Mandela now -- if either of these two men had any problems entering the pearly gates, then God help the rest of us.
Brian Mc Devitt
Glenties, Co Donegal