Monthly Archives: August 2013

Why Arsene Wenger rivals Michael Scott in World’s Best Boss bid

The greatest punch line in Premier League fan circles comes when Arsene Wenger is asked about his side’s chances of winning the competition (a feat Arsenal last achieved in 2005) ‘I still believe we can.’ It’s not exactly slap stick but it’s the easiest laugh on offer for journalists and football fans alike. Ask him again and Wenger still won’t see the funny side. Bound by his unending love for club and the players under his charge, humour is far from consideration at the Emirates. For the record, ask anyone else if Arsenal is being seriously considered for the top job in the division (Champions) and a single word will arrive. No. Just like the hapless Michael Scott in The Office (American version) believing he is being groomed for an executive role at corporate only to be told he hasn’t made the shortlist. Let the comparison linger and even if you don’t know who Arsene Wenger is don’t Google him. Instead think of a man who has managed a once successful football team based in London, with all the trappings of Dunder Mifflin’s most famous regional manager.

There is nothing more pressing on Wenger’s agenda at the moment than the signing of new players but his club have been hamstrung by their efforts in the transfer market, due to senior board members dithering when finalising deals. ‘They have no one who can do a deal’ said former Arsenal midfielder Charlie Nicholas on Saturday. Enter Michael Scott. Or at least pretend Scott could manage this situation. He has done it before. His two best salesmen,Dwight Schrute and Jim Halpert, were once given unacceptable customer reviews. No tact when dealing with clients. The Arsenal scenario wrote large. Scott is left to take over from Schrute after a disastrous sales pitch leaves a fictitious customer, Mr. Buttlicker (Halpert) wanting to file a complaint. Scott not only saves face but secures a million dollar sale, ‘See how its done’ he says as a bewildered Schrute looks on. A sale of any kind would please Wenger presently. If only he had a man with the know-how of Scott.

On Twitter, the parody account ‘Wenger knows best’ plays to the idea of the Arsenal manager as a comic with its obvious idea that he doesn’t. Much like the world’s best boss mug that sits on Scott’s desk, which lets the Office audience in on the longest standing inside joke on the show. Updated in real-time to reveal the boss’ reaction to defeats, transfer speculation and lately fan unrest over the clubs failing transfer policy, ‘Wenger knows best’ stock has risen as Wenger has become more predictable, with the fortunes of Arsenal equally lamentable. Laughing in the face of adversity has gathered its author 84,000 followers.

Ironically Wenger could teach Scott a thing or two about business, especially when dealing with old clients. Even with hand crafted gift baskets, former customers escape Scott and he is left, embarrassingly, to ask for his chocolate turtles back. Wenger wouldn’t have it thus and has a more than credible record where re-signing players is concerned. Like Thierry Henry, Jens Lehmann and Sol Campbell before him, Mathieu Flamini (if reports are to be believed) will become part of the Arsenal squad for a second time in the coming days. Unfortunately this has served to sweeten the idea around London and beyond that the joke still rests with Wenger. Like pop acts returning for a tour after years in the wilderness, these players can’t guarantee ticket sales at stadiums across England, let alone Europe.

‘I love inside jokes. I hope to be part of one someday’ reads the Michael Scott motto, but Wenger gets the last laugh.


Facebook’s profit and loss generation

This is a once in a generation idea and the water under the Golden Gate bridge is freezing cold. High stakes have never sounded more daunting. Get rich or die. Forget the trying. That’s how we are told the success of Mark Zuckerberg and the rise of Facebook took shape. Justin Timberlake said so.

It’s difficult to define why, but those two ideas of making money and death are paraded daily on the site now famous for its $80billion valuation. From personal revelations about a new job to users reflecting on the passing of a loved one, a need to stress the most naked of emotions, greed and loss, tell of a generation comfortable with publicly acknowledging their pursuit of happiness and strife.

If Facebook were a classroom, the high flyers would be those announcing their creative projects and achievements to the world. Finished their work early and sure to make a big deal out of how they designed a  collage before anyone else. Substitute collage for riches and the approval of others, and reading statuses of those at an Obama address makes sense. Adoration of wealth can be no more obvious than being in the company of the most powerful person in the world. The get rich message estimated to a newsfeed measure.

It’s curious how Facebook users reflect on the death of a loved one. Paying their respects on an anniversary by posting about the event is typical. “What ought to be done to the man who invented the celebration of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light.” The better part of a married couple may disagree with this Mark Twain comment, as might the throngs of people who update their friends on the anniversary of a family member. For others, having to read about such mourning can be strange, connected to a grieving process through a friend request. That such a trend is now cultural, opens up the notion that remembrance can be greater than a photograph in a bedroom, but rather presented electronically with an online community that share common ground on loss.

My brother Nicholas died on September 13th 2010. I have no recollection of anything else that happened on that date other than his passing. He was 20 and I 24. It seems the lapse in time between then and now means there will be much less said about that day. About him. That shouldn’t be. Grieving privately and not speaking his name is almost as unfair as his not being here. Facebook changes that. You didn’t know Nicholas. Today marks his 23rd Birthday. Now you know.


Rioting and drug dealing

Look, I’ve no idea whether Michaella (McCollum Connelly) and Melissa (Reid) went to Peru voluntarily or were coerced. So says Gail Walker, feature writer at the Belfast Telegraph. Baffling then that she cites historical cases that bear resemblance to Midnight Express, and dismisses the national jurisdiction of Peru as not fit for purpose, ‘struggling to contain a lethal trade (drug dealing) which specialises in generating victims of all kinds.’ Context is everything and positioning these two women as victims of circumstance is misleading when it is not known if they are innocent or guilty.

The narrative of being a victim in Northern Ireland is an easy escape for people only too willing to characterise themselves as such. The riots in Ardoyne have shown this with rioters staging themselves as victims forced into action because of their culture being threatened; as useful a defence as pleading ignorance to ‘food packets’ containing cocaine in your luggage. Criminal records await those who riot and deal drugs. The mistake is in seeing both as entertainment. Those who feel the need to bear witness to either run a fine line in presenting their case as moral to outsiders.

These cases will continue to fall on deaf ears as perpetrators unintentionally reveal evidence contrary to their public claims. Facebook comments, Twitter posts and video recording leave lawyers and researchers the opportunity to construct a character profile at odds with the defence of the individual. This of course comes after news media fill columns with the effects of rioting on society; after their front page spread of two terrified girls standing in front of clear packaged cocaine, as it rests on scales.

Rioting looks fun. A chance to make a name for yourself in the local community. To let adrenaline run through your veins and confront police with bricks and bottles. Especially if the police force are siding with the so called enemy. The attraction of Ibiza and its drugs culture seems equally appealing. Hedonism in heat. Both are stupid. As the stories of rioters and the ‘Peru two’ unravel, their misdemeanours are given less countenance by those in authority, ready to cast verdicts on empty entertainment.

The rioters screaming sectarian abuse, injuring police, innocent bystanders, destroying the image of peace and pushing people toward immigration; are snapped up by lawyers as legal proceedings begin with increasing regularity. The links to a story on social networking sites of a missing Irish girl in Ibiza become updated to pronunciations of incredulity when its discovered she faces drugs charges in Peru.

But an uneasy sense of disappointment will feature on the fingertips and mouths of some columnists, bloggers, parents and the usual clichés will follow, ‘they don’t know any better’ or ‘maybe they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ Let that disappointment disappear. Those thoughts have to be thought but not voiced. Rioting and drug dealing are a form of enjoyment to many, willing to take the risk of getting away with either is making a decision upon which you hope a public judgment won’t ever come your way. When it does, what looked like fun will look stupid.