Monday, July 23, 2007

Sully's Soapbox: Political Correctness

[Mario Party 8 Recalled due to disability slur]


The GAME retail chain has recalled the seemingly innocent Mario Party 8 mere hours after its release, citing the fact that the game contains "a swear word" as the reason.

For years now, I’ve been growing increasingly fed-up with notions of political correctness, and I have to say, this one takes the biscuit. Recalling a chart-topping kid’s game because the word ‘spastic’ is featured in single line of dialogue? Madness! Why are people so easily offended all of a sudden? The fact that Nintendo UK felt they had to resort to such a drastic, expensive measure to safeguard against ‘concerned’ members of the public, looking to retard the growth of the Video-game industry troubles me a great deal.

As a person with a deep and genuine appreciation for the English language, who takes personal offence to seeing ‘texting language’ used in inappropriate forums, I feel compelled to point out the factors at play here that genuinely upset me.

The word was used in context. I don’t care how much of a niggard you are when it comes to freedom of expression, regardless of how much a word sounds like something offensive, or can be construed into something offensive; (a queer affliction brought about by (ab)users of a language), if it’s used in its original context, it’s fair game.

The English version of this game was translated in America. Are we suddenly unaware of language variations between cultures, despite years of hearing the word ‘fanny’ (a crass colloquialism for the female genitalia here on the British Isles) from imported media? Children and adults alike have been listening to it for years from the likes of trusted family entertainment sources such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The Simpsons, and probably since before the Flintstones. Why the double standard?

The intent to offend simply wasn’t there! If the game featured a person with cerebral palsy, and that character was the recipient of the ‘spastic’ label, then maybe I can understand the reaction, but as an instruction to make a train wobble? Good grief!

The underlying issue I’ve had with matters of political correctness all along is the fact that it’s complete and utter bullshit. All of it. Switching to euphemisms doesn’t do anybody any favours. I find it more insulting that a person who is crippled has to be labelled ‘disabled’, or ‘differently-abled’. One implies outright uselessness, the other is just condescending. Cognitively disabled? Please. Look up the meanings for 'retard' and 'disabled; - which has a more positive connotation? Having to stay within the confines of political correctness is also an exercise in futility, as the shifting paradigms make navigating the linguistic minefield more hassle than it’s worth. The end result; people are less likely to talk about 'real' matters amongst their peers, for fear of causing offense.

Language is a technology, people – we need it to communicate, and though it we identify concepts, and no matter how many times we keep re-labelling the concepts, it doesn’t matter, because these new labels become offensive in time. This isn’t just my radical thinking, either – look at this Wikipedia article on the Euphemism-treadmill to get a more comprehensive insight as to what I’m whining about.

Can we just stop with the controversies? Can we stop being so ridiculously sensitive? Not just with regards to euphemisms, but also a healthy respect for the flexibility of language?

Ireland’s Taoiseach (‘Prime Minister’ to our overseas friends) was the subject of a great deal of negative attention, with people calling out for his resignation (bear in mind he was only just re-elected) because he made a ‘suicide joke’. When I conversed with some of my friends about it, they were quick to denounce the act without even a loose idea of what the word was used in relation to. This is what Bertie said during an address to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference;

Sitting on the sidelines, cribbing and moaning is a lost opportunity. I don't know how people who engage in that don't commit suicide because frankly the only thing that motivates me is being able to actively change something

If that offended you just now, stop; slow down, read it again. It’s completely innocuous. This as an affirmation by a public figure that he has the positive energy and the drive to push forward and make things happen, and says that those who idly moan need to take a more aggressive approach.

He did not say ‘I think suicide is funny.’ Nor did he did not say ‘I think people who commit suicide are stupid’. He did not say ‘I have no sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.’ Those meanings were harvested by those looking for a reason to be upset, and shame on the media for entertaining these people and their warblings.

I’m aware that this has dragged on about 500 words longer than it ought to have, and it wouldn’t have killed me to organise my thoughts before putting my hands on the keyboard, but my final plea to anyone who reads this is; please stop sucking the joy out of the English language. Please stop making certain phrases taboo for the sake of it. To be offended by the label attached to a concept is so abstract it’s absurd.

Let’s turn our backs on these black days, pay no heed to the chinks in the chain, and.... Okay – you see what I’m doing here, yes?

Life’s too short, let's just enjoy our language.

Agree? Disagree? I want to hear about it!

Smooth Ride?

Following up from Friday's post about the impending driving test, and in response to those who have asked about how it went, I submit the following image.

This sign greeted me from the closed shutters at the test centre.

Quite the minor inconvenience. I'm still waiting to get my test rescheduled, but the super-nice people on the RSA helpline told me that I was 'top of the list', and apologised profusely for the minor annoyance caused.

I saw the bright side; the cancelled test meant I got to go see an earlier showing of Transformers!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Win Sully's boughten love!

My humblest of apologies if you've noticed the dearth of posts on the blog over the last two weeks. The past fortnight has been brimming with activity, but not quite blog-worthy stuff - I have a few rants to upload, but with every passing day they are becoming less relevant, which quells the desire to get it off my chest!

My biggest news is my 'new' car; the feat of German engineering ingenuity known as the Volkswagen Polo. A '98 Volkswagen Polo, to be precise... With rust patches. And, as of tonight; a broken driver's seat (it just leans to the left - no biggie). Despite my initial misgivings with the vehicle, such as the lack of power-steering, its 'snack-size' stature, and the fact that it's sporting a miniscule 1 litre Petrol engine, I'm starting to warm to it.

I've found myself growing fond of the little Polo that could (seriously, you try hauling my ass up a hill), partly because of the fact that for once in my life, I am small and maneuverable. I've spent most of my life as a person 'heftier than most', and consider myself more of a hulk of clumsiness than a deft, maneuverable mass of matter. That changes when I'm on the road now, and it's nice to get a taste of being the little guy, particularly after the past week, in which I spent more time on dodgy country roads than I ever have, and the extra breathing room makes those ditch-mounting moments of driving on Irish roads less frequent.

This car and I are quickly developing a rich and storied history together. Like the time when we were the victims of some crazy asshole's road rage (basically - he was completely in the wrong, and I alternated between belittling and swearing at him until he backed off), or that time....... Okay... So far, we only have one story, but there'll be others!

The bottom line is, I'm starting to enjoy this vehicle, and I've decided to give it a name. Only problem with this initiative is that I'm utterly devoid of imagination. The last automobile I drove was brilliantly titled "The Sully-Van" [geddit?] by this classy lady, and I'm not expecting anything to live up to this level of aptness, but I want you to name my car!

It's small, it's green, and it's driven by someone who doesn't fit comfortably into it! Post your suggestions in the comments, [no registration necessary] and the winner will forever bask in the glory of knowing that he/she Christened my means of locomotion! Alright - there'll also be a prize... Not sure what, but I'll think of something worthwhile! So there you have it! A gin-u-wine competition! I'll put the best suggestions on a poll, and then we can begin the democratic process of giving my car the stupidest name on the list!

In other news, I'm taking my driving test tomorrow - by the time you read this, I'll probably have already commenced the process of drowning my sorrows in a big box of popcorn as I watch Transformers!

Monday, July 09, 2007


Last Thursday, while navigating my way through a low door-frame, I heard the familiar rustling of hair on wood, prompting me to go for my quarterly shearing.

Being in a somewhat lazy mood, I went to the local barber, despite being advised to take my custom elsewhere.

After a long wait reading women's magazines (it was either that or the brain-numbing simplicity of perusing The Sun), and just after I had put down a fascinating article by Enrique Iglesias in which he proclaims he has a large penis, it was my turn on the chopping block.

Without going into tedious details, let me just tell you that his heart wasn't in it. As I watched him in the mirror, he didn't seem to be looking at what he was doing while he buzzed around with the razor. The scissors cut was devoid of the traditional smirk-inducing 'one snip of hair for every three snips of air', and he somehow managed to make the sideburns on the left side of my head a good inch and a half higher than the right.

I'd still go back to him again though.


He was quite happy to cut away in silence, and made no effort to talk to me.

Best conversation with a barber I've ever had.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

My Skit

To celebrate UL's admission that they screwed up, and to continue my quest to find those elusive splashes of colour to add to the blog, I present to you this rather lame skit!

This was a project for my TV-Production class in Robert Morris University, and serves more as proof of my technical ability to prepare a single-camera skit than a reflection of what my creative output is like. We were assigned a rigid frame, in that we had to produce "an ironic video description of a word from Abrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary".

I personally find this clip quite enjoyable, as Chris (playing the money-hungry/pervy doctor) ad-libbed pretty much everything that was funny. And if you're interested, I can tell you that my initial 'vision' for a more cerebral, ironic approach to humour was ditched in favour of a much more visceral, albeit 'dumber' style, as the teacher acted as Producer and had to clear everything... That's right - I sold out for an A.

One last thing - sorry about the pointless Grey's Anatomy bit at the start - that was also part of the package - to 'prove' that we could edit... It didn't have to make sense!

Right then - on with the show!