National Drug Problem Festival

Guinnessmap
Well it’s certainly one view of the country

How many people would drink Guinness if it were not for its association with Ireland?

It might still be a known product, sure. Its following in Africa for example probably has little to do with its Irish origins. But for most people, the images of beverage and country are almost indistinguishable – despite it being owned by British-based Diageo. If you strip away the associations with Irish culture – or what people suppose to be Irish culture – what are you left with? No tradition, no fun-loving attitude, no music and mystery. Just a black drink with a bitter taste and weird texture.

Diageo should ruminate on this. Without the Irish market, there would be little enough market for Guinness.

Ironically these thoughts are prompted by an effort to regain market share in Ireland. I say share; I doubt that Guinness has declined much in total sales, but it remains associated with the more relaxed, conversational drinker. The biggest growth sector – the young, excessive drinker – prefers cider, lagers, alcopops, Buckfast. Any old shit in fact, as long as they can drink a lot of it quickly. It’s hard to drink Guinness quickly. The “Arthur’s Day” programme of concerts by fashionable and/or obscure bands is clearly aimed at attracting the younger crowd. But it threatens instead to kill the goose.

The debate continues elsewhere about what restrictions should be placed on the promotion of alcohol, whether it’s right to aim it at the young through sport or art or even entertainment. That’s not really the problem here though, so much as the sheer scale of Diageo’s vision. The original “Arthur’s Day” was a one-off celebration of the company’s product and history. No one objected to that. Where they overstepped the mark was in turning it into an annual event, virtually a national holiday. That is going a bit far now. Already they push the identification of brand and country to extremes, even to the point of using the national symbol for their company logo. But declaring a new feast day, that’s acting like they own the place.

It’s not a national holiday of course. It’s an enormous alcoholic drink promotion in a country that has an enormous alcoholic drink problem. Such a big event inevitably brings the issue to a head. (I’m sorry, it was unavoidable.) Guinness wants to project an image of Ireland as a land of happy drinkers, where the worst social consequences of alcohol use are perhaps a comical hangover, perhaps a jaw that aches from too much talk and laughter. And not, say, spousal abuse and suicide.

If you feel like registering your disapproval, you could visit the Boycott Arthur’s Day Facebook page.

Checkout Desk

With little luggage for the journey, the Ryanair passenger has time to contemplate the many, many ways the have to die.
With little distracting luggage, the Ryanair passenger has time to contemplate the many, many ways they have to die.

Do you ever feel when you fly with Ryanair that check-in is really trying to prove your bag breaches some rule? Well, that might be because they’re being paid to do that. From Ryanair’s annual report (pdf), page 67:

As part of its non-flight scheduled and Internet-related services, Ryanair incentivizes ground service providers at many of the airports it serves to levy correct excess baggage charges for any baggage that exceeds Ryanair‘s published baggage allowances and to collect these charges in accordance with Ryanair‘s standard terms and conditions. Excess baggage charges are recorded as non-flight scheduled revenue.

So if you thought that because it’s airport staff doing it it must be the law or safety or something, it’s not. It’s a revenue stream.

Is Bono A C***?

Mike McCaughan delivers an entertaining intro
Mike McCaughan delivered the intro

I mean, one shouldn’t just assume.

Or to put the question more precisely, is the supposed anti-poverty campaigner actually promoting neoliberal global exploitation? This fair question is asked by journalist Harry Browne in The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power), which got its Galway launch tonight in good old Charlie Byrne’s bookshop.

As I understand it, the thesis is that Bono has become the poster child for what is sometimes referred to as the “conscience consumer”. This is the sort of person who chooses a credit card because it gives some tiny percentage of each transaction to charity, who is ready to make the world a better place just as long as they don’t have to get involved personally.

Through being rich and powerful, and associating with the rich and powerful, Bono has come to promote the idea that the rich and powerful will save the world. Despite all the evidence to the contrary so far. It’s an interesting argument, and given his odder actions and pronouncements – see links below – I am inclined to think it’s true.

Is it? Read the book and let me know. College is back and I have about fifty others to get through right now.

Explain This With Your Science

Especially if your science is physics. Obviously something to do with magnetic… [Waves hands around] domains. Yeah, definitely those domains probably.

The tweezers here have two small disc magnets attached. When the arms are squeezed together, one magnet flips up to contact the other arm. When they’re squeezed again, it flips back – and so on. The freaky aspect is that it happens so consistently. Same input but opposite outcome, every other time.

It seems like there’s some sort of “magnetic equilibrium” that neither position can quite satisfy. Whichever one it’s in, the system takes any opportunity to get out again. It’s also very dependent on how the magnets are positioned. I got them this way quite by chance, and I haven’t (yet) been able to reproduce the arrangement. One other clue: Their poles are aligned in the same direction.

Answers on a postcard. Or in the comments, which I suppose are a form of post-post postcard.

Sorry. First day back in college. I have a bit of delirious.