Saturday, May 31, 2008

Virgin Territory

News in France at the moment is the annulling of a marriage by court order in Lille because the bride lied about her virginity, which was discovered by the groom on the wedding night. The court applied article 180 of the Civic Code, which states that if there is an 'objective error' about the status of one party (by this is usually meant a past of prostitution, according to most media commentators) the marriage may be annulled. Aside from the fact that this 'objective error' is probably more likely to be imputed to the female party, this troubling precedent would appear to restore the onus of virginity on the bride, something that we might have thought had long been banished from the modern world.

The couple in question are Muslim, and said to be not at all extremist; there will be those usual 'Gates of Vienna' fascists that will pipe up about this latest manifestation of the mortal danger posed to European civilisation by Islam, but the majority of people condemning this decision are on the left and, not surprisingly, French Muslim women, represented by groups such as Ni putes ni soumises, many of whom say they are fed up of the hypocrisy of those French Muslim men who play around sowing their wild oats but who go back to the old country (or al bled as Maghrebins call it) to find a pure bride. The article in Libé linked to above speculates whether hymen restitution surgery will become widespread among French Muslim women, as it has become in semi-liberated Muslim societies such as Lebanon. Of course medical consensus states that a ruptured hymen is no indicator of virginity and the virginity test has more purchase as a tool of gender domination but it's hard to explain all this to folk that but their faith in religion and tribal practices. Ironically, many of the 'pure' girls from al bled are said to have resorted to anal sex in order to protect the hymen for marriage, which leaves us at a very pretty pass indeed.

One Muslim women who has defended the court's decision, albeit on pragmatic grounds, is the Minister for Justice Rachida Dati. Quite what a member of government is doing giving her opinion on court decisions is unknown to me but Ms Dati said that it removed a threat to the safety of the bride, who may have wanted to get out of the relationship as soon as her 'impure' past was discovered. This may be true but surely there is a better way of going about getting an annullment than favouring the application of a stricture more suited to the Middle Ages?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Class Trip

A surprise from Cannes, which I haven't been blogging on for the very good reason that I'm not there; the host country got its first Palme d'Or since Maurice Pialat's Sous le soleil de Satan in 1987. The winner was Laurent Cantet for Entre les murs (known in English as The Class) an adaptation of Parisian teacher and Cahiers du Cinéma critic François Bégaudeau's novel of two years ago. The film was only admitted to competition at the very end of April, and though Cantet is a well-respected filmmaker, known for his lucid and even-handed approach to social themes, I found his last film Vers le sud, about sex tourism practised by women in Duvalier's Haiti, muddled and mechanical. Cantet had the stroke of genius (not to mention the nerve) to get Bégaudeau himself to play the role of the teacher. The cast is also made up of non-professional teenage actors (I hesitate to call them 'real-life students' as many media have - what else could teenage actors be, after all). In a nice touch, Cantet brought 28 of them along to the Croisette, where they predictably made quite a racket.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bégaudeau's book but I was sceptical both of its potential for film material and for its prospects of translation into English or any other language, given that much of the humour and the ideas extrapolated in it derive from the tension between the offical language of the French classroom and the reinvention of it by the urban, mostly Arab and African, teenagers. But I'm coming around to the idea of watching the film now, not least because it is likely to be a pleasing change from bleeding-heart feelgood films about educating the urban masses. If anything, it looks similar to the classroom scenes in season four of The Wire, albeit with less violence and crime.

Though some of my own favourite contemporary directors, Lucrecia Martel, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and the Dardenne brothers were also in competition (and Ceylan apart, they all went away empty-handed) it is good to see French cinema back on the podium. Along with Abdelkettif Kechiche's La graine et le mulet, Entre les murs is evidence of life in the French film industry, which is all too often dismissed by lazy, misinformed pundits as being talky, cerebral and pretentious. The best summation of the film, which was unanimously rewarded by the jury, was from the splendidly imperious Marjane Satrapi, a Grand Jury prizewinner last year, and juror this year: "There's almost nothing I believe in anymore, but I believe that culture and education give us the opportunity to be less stupid. It's always better to be less stupid than more stupid." I'll go with 'less stupid' too. Here's the film's trailer (no subtitles, sorry):

And well done to Steve McQueen on the Caméra d'Or for Hunger; though I don't think the world really needs another film about the Troubles McQueen's video work has always been compelling and I look forward to seeing his step up to feature making.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Football etc.

The search for more gainful employment has kept me away from here of late. There has also been a lot of football to watch, as the seasons in various countries draw to their close. It has been a happy month for myself, having seen Celtic wrap up a third successive Scottish Premier League title, their first three-in-a-row since 1974. Despite this the supporters' discontent with Gordon Strachan is likely to cause him to step aside during the summer. In France, St-Etienne reached Europe for the first time since 1982, something that seemed unlikely in March, when they lay fifteenth in the league. Their bitter rivals Lyon won their seventh title in a row and also beat Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup final last night, their first ever win in that competition.

Yesterday I watched the gallant Doonhammers from Dumfries, Queen of the South, give Rangers an awful fright in the Scottish Cup final. The third division side came from two down to equalise and at one point they looked like they might cause an upset until Kris Boyd scored a second to give Rangers a consolation prize. Later on there was the dull spectacle of Ireland against Serbia in Giovanni Trappatoni's first match in charge. The most remarkable thing about the match was how similar to Ireland under Steve Staunton the team were. I suppose that the players may be granted some indulgence at the end of the season but Serbia were the more fluid and more threatening side and were it not for Andy Keogh's spectacular volley in injury time would have claimed a deserved victory. The goal, impressive as it was, didn't quite warrant the reactions of Trappatoni and Marco Tardelli, who got a little carried away. Less theatrics will be needed come September. And, finally, Sligo Rovers move to fourth in the League of Ireland (yes, I still call it that). Can we hope for European football next season?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tommy Burns RIP

Sad news from Glasgow where Celtic first team coach and former Parkhead great Tommy Burns lost his battle with cancer at the age of 51; Burns played in the first live game of football I ever saw, a 1-0 win over Finn Harps in a pre-season friendly, when I was aged eight, and signed my match programme afterwards. A few years later I got as a Christmas present a copy of his official autobiography Tommy Twists, Tommy Turns, not by any means a classic and a bit too enthusiastically religious for my liking, but it stayed in the memory at least.

Tommy had a run managing the Bhoys in the mid-nineties but despite one cup win and getting the team to play some attractive football, he was badly hampered by the pervasive corporate incompetence of the club at the time, not to mention Rangers' then dominance. More recently he assisted Bertie Vogts and Walter Smith at the reins of the Scottish national team. Hats off too to Rangers, who cancelled their open-top bus procession through Glasgow as a mark of respect, in the spirit of Burns' own disdain for sectarianism:
"I think the saddest thing about the Old Firm rivalry is the people who have lost their lives after these games in the past, for such stupid reasons," he once said.

"This is football. I remember Jock Stein always said that: it's just a game.

"To think that people can go out with hatred in their heart and take away people's sons or brothers or fathers is just beyond belief. That's the way I think about it now: it's only a game.

"Educate the kids to integrate with one another and not pay any attention to who's a Catholic and who's a Protestant, and any of that rubbish.

"Just go out there, support your team, make good friends and get on with your lives."

Gift Horse in the Mouth

After digesting Rangers' defeat (which proved to be a surprisingly underwhelming experience), I listened alternately to John Phillips (he of the Mamas and the Papas), rain falling outside, which, if you strain your ear, sounds slightly tropical, and the latest batch of Gift Grub sketches, including Bertie's resignation. No sign yet of a Gift Brian Cowen - maybe Mario Rosenstock doesn't want to repeat the backfiring effect that the Gift Bertie had on Ahern's popularity. Has Biffo been on Gift Grub before? Does anyone know?

Another character who I'm surprised doesn't feature on the show is RTÉ football stalwart George Hamilton, the man of ripe metaphors, recondite references to the popular culture of the 1970s Federal Republic of Germany, and absurdly accurate pronunciations of Johnny Foreigner names. And he does all the same on Lyric FM too, I'm told. Surely this is a man that needs to be cloned and cast in amber for future generations. Mind you, there's never been a Jimmy Magee either though, has there? It would be hard indeed to beat Magee's real-life comment at the opening ceremony of the 1982 World Cup finals in Barcelona: 'and there it is - the international symbol of peace - the pigeon!'

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Footballing Schadenfreude Part 3

The end of the season is often, according to the turn of Fortune's wheel, also the schadenfreude season. The result I hoped for didn't quite pan out at the Parc des Princes last week, the 1-1 draw between PSG and St-Etienne, combined with Lille's 3-1 win over local rivals Lens, means that PSG will probably avoid the drop and les verts miss out on the UEFA Cup spot that was so briefly dangled in front of them.

Manchester United carried off the league title at Chelsea's expense, which pleased me simply because of my loathing for the West Londoners that long predates the arrival of dodgy Russian money. Man U (like Arsenal) are teams I like only for the football they play, while at the same time being clubs that are largely unlovable (as are many of their fans). Liverpool are the opposite, a likeable club with a one-dimensional game that sometimes thrills and more often grates. Premier League football in general is like supporting Burger King or McDonald's and I stopped really caring about it a long time ago. Ironically though the FA Cup final this year between outsiders Portsmouth and Cardiff now looks a more attractive draw that the all-English-franchise Champions' League final.

Speaking of unlovable clubs, Rangers run out tonight against Zenit St-Petersburg at the City of Manchester Stadium in an improbable UEFA Cup final pairing. Former Huns manager Dick Advocaat is at the helm for Zenit, who also count former Ger Artur Numan Fernando Ricksen among their number. On paper, Zenit, who hammered favourites Bayern Munich in the semi-final, should be expected to win. But Rangers, who, in the words of the Guardian, have been in their path to the final, the 'footballing equivalent of a son, only whose mother could love', have a chance of grinding out a depressing shock result. Especially as Zenit striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, who has scored ten goals in this year's competition against Rangers' five, is suspended. I don't expect Rangers to abandon their negative tactics, as Walter Smith has claimed they will but I wouldn't rule out an upset.

Which would piss me off, given my allegiances to their rivals from the East End of Glasgow. But having seen Rangers try to browbeat the SFA into changing the end of season fixtures to suit them (I don't recall any such favour being extended to Celtic in their UEFA-Cup final season of 2003 and there was no whining after our last-gasp league title loss) makes me even more hopeful than usual of a Rangers defeat; 'throughout the world, people will laugh at this decision in disbelief', Huns chairman David Murray thundered. As if anyone beyond Galashiels would even give a toss about Rangers. I was certainly in disbelief as I expected the SFA to satisfy their demands, seeing how anything other than a Rangers league title sticks in the craw of the Hampden suits. Rangers were given a weekend off to prepare for their Champions' League group game against Lyon last November despite Celtic being offered (or seeking) no such derogation the previous week for their equally vital match in Milan (against the reigning champions!) Then, having seen a Rangers win against Dundee United facilitated by appalling refereeing decisions on Saturday, there really can only be one outcome to this season favoured by the SPL (and SFA).

The league is now Rangers to lose and unfortunately I can't see them doing that. But let's hope so. I hope Zenit stuff them too, but that is no certainty either. But good luck to them, I might have a visceral dislike of Rangers as a club, but I know a few decent Rangers fans (and I know there are many more). Fans of every other club in Scotland will point out that Celtic are little different; that is debatable, though I can see how people think that, and Celtic are certainly no shining beacon of goodness. I for one bemoan the lack of competition in the SPL these days and would love to return to the days when it was dominated by the 'New Firm' of Aberdeen and Dundee United. But, that has been undone by the Bosman ruling, and, following the vote in Strasbourg against introducing foreign-player quotas, it is sadly, unlikely to return. And you can't rely on mad Lithuanian millionaires to bring you success either, as Hearts fans will tell you.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Footballing Schadenfreude Part 2

The sadness of Ireland's failure yet again to reach a major championship finals was deepened by England's failure to make as well, if only because it deprived Irish football fans of at least three teams to support in the final stages. Well, the English had to fall at some hurdle, didn't they? Nothing against the English in general but it is always a laugh to see their imperiously smug and chauvinistic footballing media get their comeuppance. Especially as nowadays, in the broadcast media at least, English football coverage is just so awful. I seem to recall as recently as France 98, the Beeb still mounting a worthwhile panel of experts but it has deteriorated seriously since then. The panel has been a complaisant old boy's club of chummy ex-pros that pull every punch going especially regarding their own country's team, the interjections of Johann Cruyff and Martin O'Neill providing the only light, or dissent. Marina Hyde, in a Guardian piece the other day, half-jokingly suggests that the Beeb lighten up the match coverage with the addition of Terry Wogan. Not a bad idea, really.

Of course, one thing that RTÉ beats the Beeb, and probably any other channel in the English-speaking world, hands down on is their football coverage. Giles, Dunphy and Brady may have a level of telegenism to make most television executives apoplectic but their match analysis is usually spot on and is sharpened by their candour. Brady apart, none of them have close links remaining with top-flight football in Britain, so they're not afraid to step on anyone's toes. The friction between Dunphy and Brady (which is likely to get even more interesting is things turn bad for Ireland under Trappatoni) has also provided some great TV moments. Not all the panel members over the years have been able to keep up (I'm thinking mainly of Frank Stapleton and Andy Townsend) but there have been memorable bruisers too, such as John Toshack, Pat Crerand and Joe Kinnear. Graham Souness, after an innocuous start, and some brutal hazing at the hands of Giles and Dunphy, is similarly beginning to come up to speed.

Here's a recent example of vintage Giles, Dunphy and Brady, laying into Cristian Ronaldo after Manchester United's semi-final first leg against Barcelona:

Ireland and England are currently pretty much at level-pegging in the scale of footballing infamy, having danced almost in perfect step over the past couple of years, both appointing bumbling managers of negligible experience, resulting in disaster and then appointing Italian proponents of dull, old-fashioned calcio as their replacements. Never before have Irish and English football fans identified so closely with one another. Another thing I found on YouTube was this famous match between the two when Ireland became the first non-British team to defeat the Sassenachs on home soil, at Goodison in 1949. Thrilling stuff, though I don't know who that team 'Eyy-wa' whom the Pathé commentator periodically mentions, are.

Technorati Tags: ,

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Footballing schadenfreude Part 1

Paris is a city that is close to my heart but I have never been able to reconcile it to something that is equally close to my most vital of organs: football. Paris just isn't a football town. Though it has hosted two World Cup finals, two European Championship finals and five Champions' Cup finals (as well as being the birthplace of all three tournaments) there is no buzz around the city associated with the game. It is not London, Manchester, Liverpool, Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, much less more heaving cauldrons of fandom such as São Paolo, Buenos Aires, Istanbul or Cairo.

The city's main team is Paris Saint-Germain, who have a flimsy pedigree, having being founded only in 1970. I have never warmed to PSG, partly because of that prefabricated heritage, partly because of the flagrant bias shown the club in the French media and also because of the indulgent attitude the club has towards its notorious racist hooligan element, the Boulogne Boys. Since media heir and friend of Nicolas Sarkozy, Arnaud Lagardère tired of having Racing Club de France as a plaything, Paris has been without a second club in the top flight. US Créteil-Lusitanos, a suburban club with roots in the Portuguese immigrant community, narrowly missed out on promotion to Ligue 1 a couple of years back but they have since dropped down to the third division where they play derby matches against Paris FC, who are themselves a splinter from PSG. Now, PSG are in serious danger of dropping to the second division for the first time since 1974. With two games to go they are in the relegation zone level on points with Toulouse, who they drew 1-1 with last Saturday.

I would not be lying if I said that PSG's relegation would fill me with pleasure but my own preferred French team, the once mighty St-Etienne may have benefited from a fortuitous cup final pairing of PSG and the dominant Lyon, St-Etienne's bitter local rivals. Because PSG have already carried off the League Cup in a final remembered more for the notorious banner unfurled by the Boulogne Boys and Lyon look likely to wrap up their seventh title in a row, an extra UEFA Cup place will be open to the fifth-placed team, which is at the moment, les verts from the Massif Central. This would mean that ASSE (to give them their full abbreviation) would play European football for the first time since 1982, the year of their last title and also the year that a certain Michel Platini embarked for Turin and five successful years with Juventus. Given that my own reasons for supporting St-Etienne are wrapped up in nostalgia - they were defeated in the 1976 Champions' Cup final by Bayern Munich, stymied by Hampden Park's famous square goalposts, which deflected a Jacques Santini effort away from danger, this would be pleasing symmetry. While St-Etienne, after years of financial turmoil and numerous relegations, are nowhere close to emulating their glory years, which saw them win a record ten league titles, the team, still one of the best-supported in France, and having, along with Marseille and Lens, the best fans, it would be thrilling to see them back in the big time. First they have to face PSG in the penultimate game at the Parc de Princes on Saturday. To see ASSE reach Europe again while PSG go down would please me greatly.

Here's the best of the action from that night in Hampden:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Perfect Vehicle for Racism?

Charles de Gaulle famously attributed his surviving an attempt on his life to the design of his armoured Citroën DS. Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is another French poltician who gets around in a heavily-protected motor and now it's yours to bid for on eBay. The FN is a bit hard for cash at the moment and the sale of Le Pen's 1991 Armoured Peugeot 605 follows on the auctioning of the fascists' headquarters in leafy St-Cloud, just west of Paris. The FN is moving to Nanterre, which as well as being home to ethnic minorities that wouldn't be too attuned to the party's 'message', is also a little bit rougher so perhaps Le Pen might need to beef up on security with an updated model.

The car in question has passed an MOT test as recently as the 4th of July last year, is blue (naturellement), equipped with air conditioning, central locking, anti-lock braking, automatic transmission (curious, that), CD car stereo, and despite its daily use by its very active owner, is reportedly in excellent condition. The bidding currently stands at €18,050, to close on Monday evening next, and the seller considers the car to be a collector's item. 'No timewasters', is also helpfully added.

On a not really related point, here is the latest video from Parisian electro duo Justice, which features a gang of French suburban youth (all of them black) going on a rampage, terrorising and attacking passers-by, police and security guards alike. It has been ignored by French TV, which is not surprisingly nervous of the accusations of racism. It has been racking up the hits on YouTube since; a friend of mine, who directs music videos herself, thinks it's racist and a perfect recruitment video for the FN but I think it's simply provocative, not to mention exploitative. (For those that don't know, the members of Justice, Gaspard Augé and
Xavier de Rosnay, are both white and from rather well-heeled backgrounds.) But the video is hardly any more racist than if they used a gang of marauding white football hooligans. Of course there is an inescapable racial angle and the video will goad a lot of viewers to apply their own prejudices when watching it. If you think that mindless violence is representative of black suburban youth that's what you will think when you watch this; many others won't however. But the fact that the young thugs wear hoodies with the very-recognisable Justice crucifix logo, and they attack a microphone boom operator at one point, and the title of the song is 'Stress' suggests a self-reflexive jokiness; that of course will madden and offend some folk even more. But there you are. Interestingly, the director is Romain Gavras, the 26-year-old son of Costa-Gavras, the lefty Franco-Greek director of such films as Z, Missing and Betrayed.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened...

Some films benefit from a second viewing; for my own part, among those that I didn't 'get' first time round are classics such as Repulsion, Vertigo and Heaven's Gate, films that I now view as undeniably great. But when I got wind, a couple of years back, of Michael Haneke's intention to remake his horror movie-cum-moral film essay Funny Games in English for an American audience, I was sceptical, not least because I found the film insufferably preachy in its original incarnation. The film, which was an interrogation of an audience's willingness to tolerate its desolate violence, backfired for what I perceived to be Haneke's didactic manipulativeness. Haneke himself said that those that stayed until the end of the film were those that 'needed it most', a presumptuousness worthy of any moral physician. I, for what it's worth, did stay till the end (and I often don't); I don't quite know what that says about me. All I know is that I certainly didn't feel that I needed it, or Haneke's hectoring either.

So I was reluctant to go see Funny Games US despite the fact that I am a big fan of Haneke's other films, particularly his two French films with Juliette Binoche, Code Inconnu and Caché. The fact that the film is a scene-by-scene remake (nay, a frame-for-frame remake) didn't augur well either. THe last time this was done was with Gus Van Sant's technicolour Psycho, which I admired more for the audaciousness of its conception than for its inconsiderable dramatic qualities. Having fallen prey to the exigencies of time however, I was left with only one film I could watch at Bastille yesterday afternoon, and that was Haneke's. And, I'm surprised to say, I found that I liked it.

Perhaps it's because I got my original resentment at the didacticism out of the way, or maybe it was because I was getting an eerie sense of having missed a lot in the original (though, I have to say I probably remembered a good two dozen scenes, at least, perfectly). Instead I was struck by how masterful Haneke is at racheting up the tension (though I knew that from his other films), especially early on when Peter creeps Naomi Watts' Ann out by dropping the eggs. While Michael Pitt (one of my least favourite actors) is no match for the cheerful sadism of Arno Frisch in the original film, Pitt's own perennial absence of personality is no bar to a role which blandly mines from the seam of that most obscure and incomprehensible of human characteristics: cruelty. And the cruelty is believable, as anyone who has ever had to suffer the passive agressiveness of someone desperate to pick a fight will attest. Naomi Watts (who seems to specialise in remakes these days, with the Ring films, King Kong and Martin Campbell's The Birds) and Tim Roth are as effective as the terrorised couple as Susanne Lothar and the late Ulrich Mühe were in the 1997 film.

Not only is the film shot identically, it uses much the same set design, though, as Haneke has said in an interview, the country house in the original was based on American homes, such dwellings being rare in Austria. The exact same music is used too, in all scenes. In a way, Funny Game US is fulfilling the promise of the original. Some films can be enriched by what comes after them; I'm thinking of Denys Arcand's The Decline of the American Empire, which I found dour until watching its sequel The Barbarian Invasions gave it an unexpected grace. Who knows, maybe Haneke's Austrian original is still as insufferable as I originally found it, but I am a bit more willing to give it another go. Not that it has put me off violent films altogether.

Here's the trailer for the 2008 film:

and here is the one from eleven years ago:

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Those That Have Kerviel Done to Them...

My absence from here over the past few months has caused me to miss some big news and I should forsake commenting on stuff that has long gone stale. I can't however resist going back to the story of Jérôme Kerviel, the French trader accused of being responsible for the loss of 4.82 billion euros, particularly on hearing the news that he is back in work after being headhunted as an IT consultant.

When the story broke in January there was a curious rallying on the French left to support Kerviel, proclaiming him a hero for exposing the mania of financial speculation. While it is quite likely that Kerviel is being held as a scapegoat for his part in the affair (it has been alleged by a number of sources that his employer Société Générale knew of his dealings and tacitly approved of them), the notion that an ambitious young financial trader might have some leftist whistle-blowing agenda is fanciful to say the least.

I find Kerviel fascinating though, mainly because of his very ordinariness, which is in sharp contrast to the magnitude of his financial losses, but also because of his name, which is wonderfully evocative, for English speakers at least. The plosive 'k', common to Breton surnames, followed by a 'v' and an 'l', suggests 'live', 'curve', 'evil' (something that is compounded by that unfortunately sinister-looking photograph of him that circulated in the wake of the affair) and also the late Eval Kineval, a suitable metaphor for Kerviel's acts of financial daredevilry. (English speakers should also note that the name is pronounced with three, not two, syllables, the el at the end carrying the main stress.)

Then there was the news that the story is to be turned, inevitably, into a film. No doubt it would follow the familiar trajectory of the financial scandal movie (most of which are scarcely memorable). Given that there is little of Kerviel's personal or professional life that gives itself to great drama (or drama full-stop) I think it would be more interestingly to dramatise the police interrogation of Kerviel, played along the lines of Claude Miller's brilliant 1981 film Garde à vue in which Lino Ventura's detective interrogates wealthy businessman Michel Serrault on the suspected muder of his wife. Gilbert Adair, on reviewing the film of Nick Leeson's own financial misdealings in Rogue Trader complained that the film was short on facts, relying instead on clichéd scenes of arriviste high living. An interrogation film in which Kerviel guards his hand carefully would be something I would gladly watch and which would tease the truth out of the story a lot better and more beguilingly than reams of newsprint. Somehow I don't think will be the film we'll be seeing though.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

May 68

A plug for myself here; I am currently to be seen occupying the Essay of the Month slot at my other online home Irish Left Review where I give my views on the legacy of May 1968. It's a long one, one must be warned...

Flagging Orders

We have already heard of Irish hurleys being manufactured in Poland (it appears one-third of our camánaí originate beyond the Oder), of Palestinian keffiyehs being made in China, but hearing that the Free Tibet snow flag is being made to order in a factory in Guangdong despite being banned in China is the strangest piece of news yet.

While I'm quite sanguine regarding the reality of lower manufacturing costs in China or elsewhere these days and I'm not too sentimental about the decline in symbolism occasioned by this, surely this is a desacralisation of old nationalist shibboleths; exposing them to the cold harsh light of global economics may be the beginning of the end.