Pity the Privileged, Doomed from Birth

Affecting a detached, haughty air, Dame Bianca D’Ellolio listened to the muffled, low roar approaching. It reminded her of the weekends spent near the source of the Capital’s river, playing amongst the reeds with her sisters, being pleasantly bored to death by her father’s effusions on fishing, watching the water flow by at furious rate, with the noise to boot. Oddly, this association presently served to make her more relaxed and at ease. How could something which made her feel so peaceful be a sign of impending violence?

The servants around the Dame, those loyal few who had refused to leave her side, were nonetheless nervous at the escalating din. It would be dishonest to say that D’Ellolio empathised with their plight, for she and they could not have any common ground. In any case, to her the hands were mere furniture; they had been by her side throughout her entire life, at her beck and call without hesitation and without question, so to believe that in these dire moments she might spare a thought for their future would be foolish in the extreme.

Odd though it may seem, her main concern surrounded appearances. Specifically, maintaining the demeanour of righteous, dignified propriety. Birthright, the divine progenitor of her class, must be seen to have justification in the behaviour of those destined to be its upholders. Her mother and father, her uncles and aunts, all the cousins and half-cousins and distant cousins thrice removed of her extremely extended family…every member was counted upon to set the best example possible to their subjects.



Blue-blooded though she was, Dame D’Ellolio was far from the caricature of an arrogant, entitled royal; from her teenage tutelage under the respected but radical Professor Dmitri Kropotsky, she had embraced an egalitarian streak that gave her parents vapours. This daughter of such noble bearing, joining the hordes as an activist for equal rights – it was beyond absurd! Yet, they loved her, and sought to indulge what they at first believed to be a phase, then hoped to be an aberration, then finally accepted as a characteristic.

Her lifetime of altruism would not save her now. The mob may once have been merciful towards a member of the aristocracy who showed compassion and generosity, but in a revolution the pitch was so feverish that the cry was now, “Death to ALL oppressors!” Whether they had been kindly or amiable oppressors was neither here nor there, as far as the masses were concerned. Once the iniquitous system had reached its nadir, those who had attempted to ameliorate its more demonstrably cruel effects were no longer deserving of special consideration.

Bianca suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Had she not also been exploited? Born into the straitjacket of royalty, the manacles of social etiquette and the chains of expectation lashed around her from the moment she first drew breath. Though she had been fortunate enough to find herself in a position of utmost privilege, in a life of comfort far removed from the abject misery of so many around the world, she still could not, in any real sense of the term, consider herself free. That was why, in these last few minutes of her life, she found herself willing the insurrectionists on – cheering internally as the decibels of their riotous entry grew, pleading silently with them to show no mercy, praying to whatever deity was left that they spare no effort to crash through everything in their way and tear down the whole rotten edifice of this society.

As the first few revolutionaries tore through the door, Dame Bianca D’Ellolio welcomed them with open arms; they were her liberators too.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Video Game BS with which I am absolutely DONE (Part 1)

Before anyone points out the similarity in titles, this piece is inspired by – indeed, an answer to – the excellent Kotaku article by Kirk Hamilton; “What Video Game Shit Are You Too Old For?

As an unemployed 30-something living in a new city over a thousand kilometres from friends and family, I spend an awful lot of my time playing video games. Nonetheless, I’ve reached an age where even a man of infinite free time such as myself has to draw a line and say, “Basta!” Enough is enough; there are certain gaming habits that I will no longer consider. What gaming habits, you ask?

I’m glad you inquired, Billy-Bob Strawman…


I’ll level with you; I only ever pre-ordered a game once, it was Grand Theft Auto V, and I only did it ‘cos I was trading in a ton of Xbox 360 games & could get more value with a pre-order than simply taking money or an exchange. Also, I got to feel all smug & superior on the day it landed, as cashed my Golden Ticket while empty-handed simpleton suckers were turned away, all sad-faced.

What was I saying? Oh yeah… See, no other industry does this. Not really. You could make the case for music, as you might buy a gig ticket without really knowing how good a band might be live – but that’s unlikely, and even if you had no idea you would still have their back catalogue to tell you if their sound is any good. Films? Trailers & word of mouth. Even if trailers are of dubious reliability, at least they take footage from the movie involved – game trailers frequently rely on ‘vertical slices’ that deliberately mislead consumers and, frankly, lie about the content that can be expected. Do films even have ‘review embargoes’ to the same extent that games regularly do?


Buying Upon Release

Time was, I had no problem with this. Time was, you might have a demo to get some semblance of an idea regarding the reliability & enjoyability of the finished product. Time was, we didn’t have day 1 patches.

I recently started playing the infamous Assassin’s Creed Unity, and it was remarkable how polished & uncontroversial the playing experience actually was, (the historical inaccuracy was a bucket of reactionary jizz topped up with a fucknut foam of counter-revolutionary propaganda, but that’s for another day); I have zero doubt that this improved performance was down to the years of updates released since the game shipped. In short, games that buy upon release are broken – not ‘occasionally’, not ‘quite often’, not ‘frequently’…always. They are always broken.

That’s before you even get to the cost of the games, and how quickly discounts occur. I can’t remember the last game I bought at full price, and given my economic circumstance I can’t imagine myself ever again forking out €70+ for a single game. Why would I, when it will inevitably be an unfinished, unreliable, unexamined mess?

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Asamoah loved school at that age – though that never stopped him from trying to kid his mama into letting him stay home once in a while! Once she had found his sleeping face so cute that she had been unable to bring herself to wake him…and thus, for the next week or so, he would pretend to be asleep every morning in hopes that he could swing another day off! On other occasions, he’d give out a pitiful cough, or groan and clutch his stomach in a performance worthy of an Academy award…but Chanelle Boateng was no mug, and never fell for any such shenanigans. Her son didn’t really mind, giving a laugh and a good-natured shrug at having been foiled once more, before trotting off to P.S. 77.

There were few boys as popular as Asamoah in the school. He had a multitude of friends and, though not the most gifted scholar or athlete, his teachers without exception agreed that he was a social climber. Nobody doubted his prospects, nor his application; he enjoyed his homework, loved testing his brain, even quizzes and tests didn’t strike the same fear into him that they did some of his classmates. A few of his peers may have envied his relaxed, come-what-may attitude, but in truth he was so likable that it was impossible for anyone to begrudge his fortune for too long.

No question; the future of Asamoah Boateng was very bright indeed


At the Chicano County Criminal Court today, a Mr. A Boateng (43) of no fixed address was found Guilty of two counts of Aggravated Assault and one count of Attempted Arson. A jury of his peers took just over two hours to reach their unanimous verdicts, and were thanked by Judge Roy Sealey for their dedicated public service during the trial, which lasted approximately eight days.

Boateng – no stranger to the criminal justice system after previously serving a three-year custodial sentence for possession, as well as two other suspended sentences for minor misdemeanours – gave no hint of emotion as the verdicts were read out by the Foreman. However, he did give a slight shake of the head as Judge Sealey remarked upon his prior interactions with Officers of the law.

Boateng’s counsel, Attorney John J. Clifford, later gave a short statement to the press on behalf of his client, excerpts of which were as follows;
“Asamoah [Boateng] begins his average day at noon, noon at the earliest, as a result of the large quantities of medication he is required to take for physical and mental anguish. With only the most rudimentary insurance cover available to him, my client has found the cost of these pharmaceutical necessities prohibitive. Combined with his low earning power in the labour market, this forced Asamoah into more and more drastic measures in a desperate attempt to acquire funds. This in no way exonerates my client from the harm he has caused others, but it reflects the reality of life for him and many others like him in our bloated prison industrial complex.”

Sentencing will be held at Chicano District Court in around a fortnight’s time.


Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Warding off the usual Worries

I hate these bays. I feel so exposed. They are completely open – that’s sort of the point – and anyone can just wander past and look at all the inhabitants. No privacy at all. Combine that with the hourly checks by the nursing staff and there is absolutely no possibility of relaxation…which is ironic, really, given the condition that I – and doubtless plenty of others here – suffer from.

Worse still, I don’t wear pajamas. Any other time of year and this wouldn’t be a problem at all, I’d just sleep in my t-shirt and boxers, but at the time of writing it’s the height of summer. Bloody roasting during the day, uncomfortably muggy during the night. So every time a nurse pops his or her head around my curtain I’m at least half naked! I know, I know; you’re chuckling away at that image. I’d probably find it funny too…if it didn’t put me on edge.

Most of the bay is empty, gratifyingly enough. The guy in the bed opposite is Padraig, a Leeds United fan. He’s pretty chatty; we talked politics and football for a while. Seems a nice bloke…but it’d be nice to able to say, “Well, see you later!” and actually end the conversation in the normal fashion. Oh well.


Despite all these niggling little anxieties, the fact of the matter is that I am much happier in this protective environment than I am on the outside. I sometimes wonder if freedom is wasted on me. The limitlessness of possibility, of choice, of responsibility…just terrifies me in a way I find hard to communicate. Some people think of hospital as prison, presumably for the way it can deprive patients – or ‘service users’ as is the term now – of various liberties…but I just cannot relate to that notion. On the couple of occasions I’ve had a stint in a medical institution, it has been the most liberating and comforting experience of my life.

Benjamin Franklin wrote that those “who give up essential Liberty, to purchase some temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”. Then again, at the time he wrote that line, he was a slave owner who profited from domestic and international slave trade and had even criticised those slaves who had fled to join the British Colonial Army in the 1740’s and 50’…so fuck that guy. Clearly didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Superficial Reflections in Berlin – Part I

Ages since I wrote anything in here. Terrible stuff altogether. I’ve been distracted with, in order; preparing to emigrate, settling into our new home upon emigrating, watching all of Euro 2016, playing PS4. Note absolutely no mention of a job there…but that’s for another time and panic attack.

I won’t bore you with broad strokes on how Berlin is, like, SO much better than Dublin you guys. Instead, this missive will predominantly involve the little things I’ve picked up and enjoyed in the 7 weeks spent living in Germany’s capital. Just take it as read that almost everything is cheaper than in Ireland, of higher quality to boot, and that the only thing missing is the sad fact that we couldn’t bring all of our friends & family to live with us when we moved.

So anyway. Fritz Kola. I fucking❤ this stuff like an absolute nutcase. There’s Club-Mate Cola too, which is excellent as well, but Fritz is the tits. As well as their regular black stuff, there’s loads of other flavours to guzzle – so far the only one I’ve tried is the apfelschorle, and that’s easily the best fizzy apple drink I’ve ever tasted. This is all wonderful as far as I’m concerned, as I grew up loving Coca Cola before beginning a boycott in university that lasts to this day – thanks UCD and Mark Thomas. Now I can finally renew my love of cola, free from any shameful associations with union-busting, environmental destruction, activist murders and Nazi-supporting! Best of all, only a few weeks after Saoirse & I touched down in Schonefeld (apologies for the absence of an umlaut over the ‘o’ – I can’t work out how to program this sodding keyboard to make umlauts easier to insert), Fritz Kola joined the ranks sponsoring my favourite Bundesliga club… St. Pauli. I’ll drink to that!


Right, I’m tired and bored now, so I’m going to sign off. Join me next time, for a paean to another object of commodity fetishism! What’ll it be; some local confectionary? A bike? The microwave-oven? You’ll have to wait to find out!

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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How Left Remain Campaigners Sold Out the Working Class: Lesser Evilism in the EU Referendum

Leicester Socialist Students

There are few illusions about the reformability of the EU on the left, even amongst those campaigning for Remain. Paul Mason has stated that “it is impossible for the EU to be a democracy”. The ex-Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has described the “point blank refusal” of Greek creditors to “engage in economic arguments.” He explains, “you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken.” No doubt fuelled by these experiences, Varoufakis has since expressed serious doubts about the prospect of his own campaign succeeding – “It will probably end up in failure like all the best intentions.”

In this respect, they are in harmony with the left opposition, who argue that the prospect of reform will inevitably fail because the EU lacks a democratic structure.

But this has not been the main focus of the debate. Instead, the main issue has been less the objective…

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The Hell Where Youth and Laughter Go

This past week it was announced that the next release in the Battlefield franchise will be set in the Great War, a period hitherto under-explored in video games. While this had been rumoured for some time, due to leaks and soforth, it still surprised me when I finally saw the teaser and subsequent trailer; put simply, it is a pretty mammoth task to make a compelling video game out of the First World War, given the lack of cultural touchstones in the collective consciousness other than trenches, foot rot, shell shock, and gas masks. Fair play to DICE and EA for looking past such clichés and shibboleths to examine the whole of what occurred between 1914 and 1918 and seek out the events that lend themselves more aptly to gaming adaptation. Me, I’ve been dying to see World War One become the focus of a AAA title for a long, long time, so to say that I’m excited would be a zeppelin-sized understatement!



The title isn’t one I would have chosen. They’ve gone for Battlefield 1, which has earned a great deal of criticism online. I don’t hate it, I understand that it refers to the setting – 1st World War, World War 1 – but I would have gone for the slightly more clever Battlefield ’16; the number representing both the middle of the war, 1916, and the year of release, 2016. If only they had as finely-tuned a mind as mine on their naming team. Alas…

It is so refreshing to see a triple-A developer and publisher actually take a punt on something that hasn’t been done before and represents a risk. I can’t stress enough how much of a rarity that is becoming in an industry that frequently spends much, much more on ‘dead certs’ than they can possibly recoup in sales; great games like Tomb Raider, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and others with ‘Brand Recognition’ did not do as well as projected…because the projections were ludicrously optimistic. These companies are built to make profits, not art; they are, by necessity, risk-averse. So it is lovely to see – especially from EA, of all people! – that there remain individuals who are willing to explore relatively unknown settings in order to produce something that has not been seen before.


Judging by the cover (sorry Yahtzee, no copyright infringement intended), the game will also attempt to shine a light on the experiences of soldiers of colour during the conflict. Certainly, there are items in the slated DLC which refer to the Harlem Hellfighters; they were a regiment almost entirely made up of African-Americans drawn from the boroughs of New York City, and they achieved fame and notoriety in battle on the Western Front in 1918. In fact, the ‘Hellfighters’ moniker was not one they chose themselves – it was one their German opponents came up with as a mark of respect…and, probably, terror.

Battlefield 1 is due out in October, and I for one cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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