The Blog

What Kind of Week Has It Been? 13 June 2014

The problem with the news is that it can often be uncomfortable, bleak and serious. Some things can't be given a positive or acerbic spin, and this week reminds us more than most...

The problem with the news is that it can often be uncomfortable, bleak and serious. Some things can't be given a positive or acerbic spin, and this week reminds us more than most.

The case of the nearly 800 babies buried and forgotten on the grounds of a nun-run home for children in Tuam, Co Galway, is currently haunting a country not short of Church/State nightmares to begin with. A conference resolving to bring an end to sexual violence in war has brought some gruesome stories out in the open. An infograph showing that sexism in the world of acting is depressingly par for the course went viral. The row over "Trojan Horse" schools has revealedhas exposed internecine feuds as well as an increasingly serious kulturkampf. And even in the 21st century, bonded labour, slavery by any other name, pervades in everything from making stadia for the whitest, most elephantine World Cup ever to gathering the prawns for the sandwiches in their corporate boxes. And to top it all off, Rik Mayall died aged 56, making the world a little less Flash.

But, being a disciple of the campaign started by that nice Welsh newsreader a few years ago, there is good news to focus on, and even some silver linings on the heavy stuff. Rik Mayall's passing gave us one of the most poignant tributes you're like to see in a while. FIFA's horrific vanity has been nailed by John Oliver in a clip that shows why he's the biggest star in American comedy at the minute. And Michael Gove's call for "British values" in school was met with the metronomic, merciless pillorying that any Gove statement inspires.

Irish ministers seem much less bothered by the fact that, according to one study, Ireland is the most "truly Muslim" country in the world. Mind you, not many actual Islamic countries made the top of the list, making it a kind of the "The treasure was you all along" sort of list. Which, if nothing else, should give people cause to think about what exactly Islamic values are and how they conflict - or not - with our own. One thing that does look certain though is that one key element of Irish values, the Gaelic sport of hurling, has been met with its new British Sky Sports audience with impressed horror.

So, what other good news can we take succour from this week? Well, this guy made the best solo music video since Christopher Walken danced to Weapon of Choice, so there's that. Also, it's mid June, which means it's time for US Commencement speeches by celebrities taking YouTube by storm. The highlight so far has been Jim Carrey's address to the Maharishi University of Management, an institution I'm quite glad to find out exists. One particular minute has been given the Upworthy treatment, but the other 25 are well worth watching, and heeding.

You wouldn't think surreal words of wisdom would be topped after that performance, but a graphic artist gives it a good shot by making posters captioned by the Joycean tweets of Gerry Adams, a man whose social media presence makes Kanye West look like a guy live tweeting an accounting seminar. The literary notion runs through Northerners, which is probably why so many people were only too glad to save contents of a bankrupted bookshop from a skip outside. Why a few libraries or schools couldn't have been given forewarning though is anyone's guess.

Book learnin' (or at least book procurin') is in no short supply in Derry, but less so among the Tea Party folk in the United States. Yes, they haven't gone away you know, in fact they've taken their biggest scalp in ages, as House Majority Leader (and former Tea Party golden boy) Eric Cantor lost the Republican Primary to an unknown economics professor Dave Brat. Therein is a cautionary tale to this generation of wantonly cruel Republican legislators: when you create a baying mob, it's only a matter of time before they run out of targets, and turn inwards.

But if Cantor's taken a bruising, it's nothing compared to what Boris Johnson's got in store. He's offered to get shot at with a water canon to prove that the ones he's just bought are totally safe, assuming he even gets to use them. The sooner he gets repatriated to the PG Wodehouse story he comes from, the better. A much more real and current headache for Boris this week though should be the fact that taxi drivers are causing gridlock over the new cab booking app, Uber, that they reckon it's costing them money. Although since the spat went public, Uber signup has octupled, so now they definitely have a point. This is what happens when you pick a fight with a company with such a cool name.