Monday 22 January 2018

People are talking: It's a fine day for George-watching

Amal and George Clooney
Amal and George Clooney
Alexis Tsipras
Garth Brooks

What's the Italian for double standard? George Clooney might be inclined to wonder in the coming days after Roberto Pozzi, Mayor of the Lake Como town of Laglio, where Clooney has his famous villa, passed a law making it illegal for rubberneckers to approach the actor, his new wife or their home. Anyone who leaves their car or boat within 100 metres of the sumptuous Villa Oleandra could face a pretty hefty fine of €500.

It seems that the authorities in Como will go so far as to bend the statute to suit their most wealthy and influential visitors. It's a development that one would think might raise the perfectly groomed eyebrow of Amal Clooney. She is a human rights lawyer, after all. Surely she must recognise that it's a fairly drastic measure to make approaching a celebrity an offence.

But most surprising is the sudden attack of shyness on the couple's part. Just six months ago, they got married in Venice with pomp and press coverage to rival a royal wedding. Next thing, they're standing by while the Mayor hands out fines to anyone who so much as puts a toe close enough to the fence of their fancy pad. What's next? Putting a restraining order on the valet? Setting the dogs on the postman? If Pozzi's law is against day-to-day irritants, maybe he could think about some which would benefit us all. Slapping fines on marketing cold calls, would be a good start. And kids who ask you to buy them cigarettes.

Julia Molony

Harry is right - we need to get out of selfies

We never thought we'd see the day when Prince Harry was the voice of reason. The first royal to win at beer pong? Possibly. A continual source of discomfort for the stuffy older royals? It's looking likely. But the voice of reason? No, that didn't seem to be massively on the cards.

And yet, guess who last week finally took a stand against the irritating selfie craze? Only Fourth In Line himself. "No, I hate selfies," he replied to a fan. "Seriously, you need to get out of it. I know you're young, but selfies are bad."

We couldn't agree more. We can only imagine how future generations will look back in head-shaking dismay at our obsession with taking pictures of ourselves. They are only ever narcissistic bragging, and we need to return to a time when we collectively cringed at pictures of ourselves.

The historian Simon Schama says that we need to stop taking selfies and begin looking at strangers again. And as the weather starts to warm up nicely, and the amount of flesh on display increases exponentially it's advice we instinctively know to be true. You can take as many selfies as you like but it's never going to come up to the hotness of a perfect stranger sauntering past. It's them we should be photographing. Or as Schama says "selfies are the white noise, portraits are the music."

Donal Lynch

Make the Brits foot the bill

Beware of Greeks bearing grudges. The new left wing government in Athens, led by Alexis Tsipras, right, has now demanded a whopping €279bn from Germany in reparations for being occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War, a figure which is, oddly enough, almost exactly the same amount that the EU/IMF have loaned to Greece to get it through the current crisis.

Here's hoping the Germans cough up. Not only would it solve the Greeks' problems overnight, with a little extra to spare for a few bottles of ouzo to celebrate, it would also open the door for Ireland to do the same down the line. Think about it.

Greece in the 1940s was occupied for less than four years. Ireland was under British rule for, well, there's some historical disagreement about the precise figure, but 800 years seems to be the figure generally accepted by balladeers, boozers and Belfast bruisers.

Roughly speaking, that means we should get €279 billion multiplied by 200, which, according to my calculator, works out at €558 trillion. That's greater than the world's entire combined GDP. Get our hands on that kind of cash and we'll be so rich again it will make the Celtic Tiger years look like something out of Peig Sayers by comparison. It'll certainly pay for the party to end all parties in 2016.

Sadly, it won't happen. Germany's already dismissed the Greek claim as "stupid". Though coming from people who once wanted to rule the world for a thousand years, that may be a compliment.

Eilis O'Hanlon

The clue is in Garth's songs

Garth Brooks performing in Ireland is like a housing crash. We convince ourselves it won't happen but we know, deep down, it will.

Just when we thought it was safe to go back to Croke Park and pack away those Stetsons he's making more ominous noises about coming back. And by ominous noises I don't mean a blast of Friends in Low Places or If Tomorrow Never Comes. Brooks was interviewed by Patrick Kielty as part of a BBC Radio 2 show and the comedian has now revealed that Garth mentioned coming back to Ireland. Sensibly the BBC folks edited out all references to Ireland in the final broadcast but now Kielty has revealed what was left on the cutting room floor.

"Brooks said: 'Well it was one of those things, we couldn't make it work'. And he was gutted and he wants to try and fit it back in the tour. I don't need to remind people that Garth had permission to perform three concerts but when he couldn't get the five he wanted he flounced off.

Even his songs contain ominous messages like More Than a Memory and When You Come Back to Me Again.

Seriously there's no shaking him off!

Will Hanafin

There's money in offensive generalisations

Remember when Mammies used to warn their children "If you can't say anything nice then say nothing at all."  In our brave new 24/7 social media world it's a foolish parent that exhorts their kid to be 'nice' because there's money in  them there offensive stereotypes and disgusting generalisations.

Just look at that woman who went from The Apprentice to being photographed having sex with a married man in a field to wearing a washed-out onesie in Celebrity Big Brother. You know who. Of course you do, because every day she says something staggeringly horrible about someone or some group. And, here's the best bit, a newspaper pays her for her bile and now, apparently, there's a TV Channel trying to develop a chat show with her. (If it comes to pass it won't be a chat show, it will be the host shrilly shouting her opinions and drowning out everyone else, she doesn't do 'chat'.)

Of course, the rest of us are also contributing to this woman's coffers because when she makes one of her outrageous statements we react (how could we not) and talk about her. And to paraphrase Oscar Wilde for some, the only worse thing than being talked about is not being talked about. So, instead of feeding her ego, and purse, let's just call her That Awful Woman, (TAW). TAW's latest headline-grabbing antic was to attack those stricken with dementia, calling them 'bed blockers' and saying they should be euthanised to free up hospital space.

She probably didn't bargain on former Wales International Robbie Savage, (the 'dirtiest' player in the Premier League, 2008), standing up to her, (her targets are usually weak and powerless).

Savage, now a football pundit and an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society, who lost his own 63-year-old father to dementia showed remarkable restraint when he said he was "mortified" by TAW's remarks. Then again, Savage now works in the media and probably realises that least said the sooner she will go away.

Anne Marie Scanlon

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