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== Chaos is nearer the surface than we imagine, waiting to break through ==
 
  
YOU could argue that for our sanity we need to believe in certain things. We need to believe in order, for example. We need to believe that things are in some way under control, that we, or someone else, is on top of things, has a grip. Beyond our belief in order lies the appalling vista. It is the stuff of nightmares, of horror films.
 
 
We need to believe, too, that the Government is in charge. Despite increasing evidence to the contrary, we cling needily to the notion of this paternalistic institution to which we have delegated the running of the bigger picture. Once we can believe that they are there fighting the macro-battle, then we can focus on our own petty struggles. And every time we read about further deterioration in the economy, or the world order, we can console ourselves with the notion that while we are powerless to do anything, we have a Government and it is, presumably, on top of things.
 
 
So we literally suspend disbelief as we observe the weekly routine that is the Oireachtas. We will ourselves to believe that the talking, and the plans, and all the rest of it, are going to make a difference, maybe even that they will work. We may disagree with the talk and the plans at times, but part of us gullibly thinks that these guys are, in some way, competent to be in charge. This necessary gullibility is revealed by the fact that until very recently, most of the media -- and many of the public -- wilfully allowed themselves to believe that this Government was on top of things, despite the fact that since before last summer the Government has been adrift.
 
 
While much has been made of this Government's apparent need to "get real", many of these exhortations have come from an Opposition that has resolutely refused to get real itself. It is an Opposition that has put playing political games and political opportunism ahead of actually eyeballing what is an extraordinary shift in our whole world, and positioning ourselves for this shift . buy [http://www.inugg.com/  uggs] .
 
 
But then again, who is going to be the politician to turn to the people and say the real truth? "Things are never going to be the same again. The world as we know it is disintegrating. You need to radically alter your expectations of life. The value of everything is up in the air and could be nothing, as are all the systems and certainties that our lives up to now were based on. Indeed, the very sovereignty of our State is now in doubt as we are moving, with increasing haste, towards bankruptcy. There is a high possibility the country is going to run out of money, and one week soon we simply will not be able to pay people's dole, or nurses' wages or any other bills.
 
 
"We're not really sure what will happen then because the very institutions that might bail us out in that situation, like the IMF or the ECB, might not at that point be able to bail us out. We can take nothing for granted anymore, including the world order."
 
 
The closest any politician has come to looking the people in the eye and telling them the mind-blowing truth about what's going on is, funnily enough, Brian Cowen, when he told the Dublin Chamber of Commerce that our children would probably not enjoy the same standard of living as we do. It was, when you think about it, a fairly radical thing to tell people because you are asking Irish people to let go of another one of our core beliefs -- that the country is constantly getting better and that each generation enjoys a standard of living that is higher than that of our parents. Remember, this is a country that went from hobnail boots to [http://www.inugg.com/  ugg boots], from poor farmers to farmers' markets, in little more than two generations. We are a country that believed a year ago that things could only get better. The notion that we could now slip back, from being one of the richest countries in the world, to being a Second World, or indeed a Third World country again, is unimaginable for most of us.
 
 
Just as we need to believe we have tamed our demons with civilisation and order -- two immutables that cannot break down -- we need to believe too that we have conquered poverty and our past with unrelenting progress.
 
 
Of course, one of the reasons that no politician has told people how much in freefall the foundations upon which we have built our lives actually are is because most politicians are in denial too. They believe that conducting the weekly circus in the Dail, having pops at each other and dissing whatever plan the opposite side moots is still, in some way, acceptable behaviour. They do not realise that democracy as currently practised in this country has failed, is in terminal failure, and is now irrelevant.
 
 
Can you believe for example, that the Government is still waiting for a report from the Commission on Taxation? Its effort to speed things up has apparently been to tell the Commission to report in July instead of September. We could, as the man says, all be dead in July, but somehow it seems that the Government thinks it is still OK to wait for some report on what we should do about wider tax reform.
 
 
This at a time when any taxi driver could probably offer a decent stab of a taxation plan for the country -- and at a time when people are prepared for the worst in terms of taxation. It was last Tuesday before Brian Cowen realised the country was screwed and needed a mini-budget, despite the fact that schoolchildren were muttering the day after the last Budget that it was not enough and we would need another one within months. Mary Coughlan thought, just the other day, that the country's finances were in good shape. Fintan O'Toole, who has set himself up as a tax expert, appears to be running the Opposition's policy -- which is "Eat the rich". Trust me: politics is not working here.
 
 
So now we need to consider something different, now we need to consider something that could get a grip on things. If our politicians don't realise this, they will realise it soon enough. Who among them, do you think, will dare leave
 
 
the safety of Leinster House to campaign for local or European elections, or, indeed, for a Lisbon Treaty? Who among them will relish going out among the people if there is a general election? Can't you picture it? Politicians getting egged, getting a dig instead of a dig-out? Rival factions of canvassers and supporters going at each other?
 
 
Of course by then we will presumably have unrest on the streets anyway, as unions or taxi drivers or whoever else having taken to the city centre are encouraged by the kind of sinister elements who start sowing seeds of unrest wherever there is discontent. It's a miracle that some public gathering hasn't ended in rioting yet, but it will happen soon enough as people lose hope even further and as the vague sense of chaos and drift out there begins to crystallise in people's minds.
 
 
The mini-Budget and the continuing inability of the Government to seem to be in charge will form the background to unrest -- will, if you like, provide an ambience that is conducive to unrest. The opportunity and immediate catalyst for unrest will be protests or election campaigns. And once it has happened once, and civil society is breached, and the world doesn't end, then it will happen more and more, and soon at every place where people gather in public there will be tension and the potential for unrest. With trust in the financial system and the political system gone, soon enough people will lose faith in all systems. Chaos is much nearer the surface than we imagine, waiting to break through, and once it breaks through, it's like a virus.
 
 
So what kinds of measures should we consider? The idea of a so-called National Government has been batted around a bit recently. However, it is difficult to say if there is anything inherently inspiring about the current incumbents of Leinster House all working together instead of agin each other.
 
 
What we probably need to try now are some kind of emergency measures that allow us to react to the situation as quickly as it develops. Waiting for the Commission on Taxation or an Bord Snip Nua to report months down the line makes no sense now. Neither does the Government being unable to cut civil service pay because the legal advice is that they can't. Similarly a Government that needs to spend months fooling around with the social partners before it can make a decision about economics has no place in the world right now. Neither has a Government that is legally constrained from cutting tribunal lawyers' fees. Buy [http://www.inugg.com/  cheap ugg boots] .
 
 
In fact, come to think of it, much of the country is tied up in red tape that was designed for more genteel times. This is not a particularly relevant example right now but it is a rather telling one: Did you know that 85 per cent of the staff of the Office of Public Works, the Government department responsible for decentralisation, are refusing to move to their decentralised location? Irrelevant right now, but just another example of the kind of rubbish that is still going on as Rome burns.
 
 
These are sterner and more urgent circumstances, and it is perhaps time that we looked at suspending some of our more civilised instruments of running the country. After all, it is the very collapse of civilisation that we are battling for right now, so we need to fight a bit dirty, just so the centre can hold in some way. Standing on ceremony, as we are wont to do, could only be a recipe for greater chaos.
 
 
== Moir’s Big Yin routine is one big yawn ==
 
 
There are 370 shows at the forthcoming Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival. At 369 of them, the performers will be following the two unwritten laws of comedy: find your own voice and write your own material. At one of them, a man in a black Spandex one-piece and “banana-fied” [http://www.inugg.com/  ugg boots] will perform a set “inspired by Billy Connolly’s classics”.
 
 
Gary Moir, a former winner of Stars in Their Eyes, makes much of the fact that he, like Connolly, is a failed welder from the Glasgow shipyards. Normally, this would qualify him for delivering Chinese meals or restocking the freezers in Asda, but not Moir.
 
 
He had wearied, so his legend goes, of people telling him he was as funny as Billy Connolly. So shipbuilding’s loss would be comedy’s gain. But instead of becoming Gary Moir, hilarious individual performer who wears normal clothes and relies on his own imagination, he became the Big Yin, a Connolly tribute act.
 
 
He is not alone. There are a host of banjo-strumming, glottal-stopping faux Billys out there, appearing in the sticky-carpet clubs that Connolly played in at the start of his career. (They are also available for weddings, parties and corporate events, for people who imagine their big day would be improved by a singalong version of D-I-V-O-R-C-E.) Moir’s show has been a Glasgow Comedy Festival sell-out for the past three years; this time around, he is expected to fill the Barrowlands.
 
 
When Connolly started out, the Barrowlands was a dance hall. He played folk clubs and function rooms: his career-starting Billy Connolly Live! was recorded in the Tudor Hotel, Airdrie. Back then, Connolly was a fresh voice, an accent never heard before on Michael Parkinson’s BBC chat show.
 
 
He cheekily mixed up scatology and social observation with spoof songs. Among the mother-in-law gags of the 1970s, reimagining the Last Supper as a bar room rammy was bold and original. He swore like he was still working in the shipyard and made jokes about subjects — masturbation, flatulence, piles — that many of his audience would blush to discuss with their GP.
 
 
It was sensational and shocking, while being accessible in a way that the alternative comedians of the next decade never quite pulled off. But it is a product of its time and place: Connolly’s stand-up is a period piece, tied to a time when buses were orange, green and operated by the corporation. Neither Moir nor the other tribute acts on the circuit have adopted the purple beard or flowery shirts favoured by the latter-day Connolly. He has not sung In the Brownies, or worn the big banana boots that Moir copies in his stage costume for 30-odd years. The originals are where they belong — in a museum.
 
 
Unpleasant illnesses, evil families, problem drinking . . . the material that took Connolly’s audiences into wild, uncharted territory is now available back-to-back on television. The fabulous Glesca patter has been cleaned up and repackaged for telly, radio and in the acts of plenty of comedians who can stand up on stage without hiding behind somebody else’s hairstyle.
 
 
Connolly himself has run into difficulty dealing with contemporary events — there was a huge uproar in 2004 when, at the Hammersmith Apollo, he made a joke about the hostage Kenneth Bigley, who was soon to be beheaded in Iraq.
 
 
So the tribute acts such as Moir stay on safe comedy territory. He even borrows other comedians’ lines and puts them into his phoney Connolly mouth. Does his bum, he asks the audience, look big in his catsuit? It was Arabella Weir, not Connolly, who originally posed that question. He ploughs on regardless, with a charmless discussion of the size of other parts of his anatomy. It is about as daring as Kate Middleton’s dress sense and as challenging as an episode of Fireman Sam.
 
 
Of course, the audience that goes to see the Big Yin does not want to be taunted or challenged or made to feel uncomfortable. If they did, they would stay in and watch a Sarah Silverman DVD. They are going for nostalgia, for the values of the1970s wrapped up in a fancy-dress outfit. It’s not grown-up and it’s not very funny.
 
 
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== MCC members guide on how to dress ==
 
 
The exclusive social club has sent members a two-page illustrated guide of its strict dress code.
 
 
Bare midriffs, torn jeans and thongs are banned from the Member's Reserve.
 
 
Men will be refused entry to the Long Room or Member's Dining Room if they have no tie or wear a zippered jacket and women will be turned away in leggings, denim jackets or three-quarter pants.
 
 
In case members don't know what tracksuit pants and [http://www.inugg.com/  ugg boots] look like, the MCC had models pose in the unacceptable clothes.
 
 
The latest MCC membership letter warns members they will not be admitted unless they can pass the fashion police.
 
 
"To avoid any embarrassment at the turnstiles, please ensure that your attire, and that of your guests, is appropriate."
 
 
MCC chief Stephen Gough said the guide was necessary to inform members, who will this year pay up to $726 in fees.
 
 
"It's come about because we have so many occasions when members might bring guests that are unaware of the requirements," he said.
 
 
"Sometimes members themselves don't know what is expected of them.
 
 
"So we've done this because it can be embarrassing for people to get knocked back and a major inconvenience."
 
 
But MCC members said the dress guide was a step too far.
 
 
Country member Brendan Carrick said the MCC was pointing out the obvious.
 
 
"If you're a member, you know what you're expected to wear," he said.
 
 
"You don't need a two-page guide to remind you to wear a collar or to remind your guest that they have to wear a tie."
 
 
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== OK! Interview: Peter André & Katie Price ==
 
 
The former UK glamour model and her pop star hubby stopped by OK!’s Beverly Hills office, and opened up about their life in the US, the Beckhams, and Jade Goody .
 
 
Do you live a normal life here in the US?
 
 
Peter: In England, it is constant. Here you get some days when they are there, and some days when they are not. You can be normal.
 
 
Katie: You think it’s pretty normal to go and have a 13-mile run along Malibu beach and have twelve paparazzi following you around?
 
 
The Beckhams attempt to “conquer America,” was short-lived because it looks like they’re now going back to Europe. What are your thoughts?
 
 
KP: Well, we never said that we were trying to break America. I don’t know if they said that they were trying to. It’s sad they’re going to be leaving. I’m sure that she loves it here, and her boys love it here. Just — good luck to them!
 
 
PA: I think that they are so successful anyway –who cares. It doesn’t matter, and I think –you know, good luck to them! We love them.
 
 
What are your thoughts on Victoria Beckham’s style?
 
 
KP: Sometimes, I do think that she tries too hard. I would actually like to see her in a tracksuit, and [http://www.inugg.com/  ugg boots] going to the shop buying newspaper – smiling.
 
 
What are your thoughts and feelings on fellow UK reality star Jade Goody's battle with cancer?
 
 
KP: Oh, it is awful. But I think that it is so brave and I am just gutted for her. We talk about her day and night. I would love to be by her side just the whole way, you know.
 
 
PA: It’s really put everything into perspective for us. We are living the American dream but what does it all mean when you think back to someone who can’t see their children after a certain period of time. She will never see them again.
 
 
Have the both of you reached out to her?
 
 
KP: I’m supporting her.
 
 
PA: We’ve sent her some messages, and we have sent her some flowers.
 
 
KP: I do say that they need to do a Jade charity, and I would love to be a part of that. I said that next year, I would run the marathon to raise money for that.
 
 
PA: Well, I was actually thinking of writing her name across my forehead when I do the London marathon. Buy [http://www.inugg.com/  cheap ugg boots] .
 
 
== Location: Iraq, Sulaimaniya ==
 
 
It's been 29 days and 3 hours since I landed in Sulaimaniya. It's official. This is the longest time I have ever been away from the UK. A time during which I learnt to be an editor, a journalist, a communicator, in both Arabic and English (the Arabic part is debatable), mud puddles survivor, a taxi fare haggler and a Barclays bank plc hater. Home sweet home(s).
 
 
My favourite part of the day, and sometimes not, is getting in the taxi to go down town Sulaimaniya. It is my only chance to have a direct genuine conversation with people. 'I am Iraqi speak no Arabi,' mocked one of the drivers. 'I am Iraqi speak no Kurdi,' I replied. We both laughed.
 
 
I learnt that it is considered inappropriate to strike a conversation with people you do not know and that smiling would be an invitation to flirt. But the adorable way Kurds try to communicate in Arabic is irresistible, especially if they are old men who like to reminisce about Iraq's good days and Baghdad. Could they be talking about the early 70s? The only time Iraq has ever seen some kind of prosperity and not many had to suffer, although peace never prevailed. Not the Monarchy or the British occupation surely. Neither could it be Saddam's reign. Perhaps they are just ordinary people who just enjoyed being them and living their lives despite the hardships they were subjected to. What I heard and read in newspapers on Kurds and Arabs have almost been non-existent in Sulaimaniya during the past 4 weeks. True, there are more Kurds than Arabs here, but not one so far seemed to consider themselves anything but Iraqi, and sometimes the word Kurdish preceded the word Iraqi. Were they being nice to me because I am a customer? Or perhaps when they realize I had no hand in the gassing of Kurds, and instead talked to them in a civil manner, they react accordingly. Perhaps I am making progress already. Perhaps through me, they believe we are one. Perhaps they will regain their patriotism to Iraq as a whole. Perhaps it's the politician's game that makes things look ugly. Or perhaps I am being unrealistic and naive. Who knows!
 
 
Sulaimaniya is a modern, up and coming city that has a limited choice of entertainment but a vast history and a beautiful nature. The mountains surrounding it are breathtaking, while trekking the way up to the tips of them is surreal. What attracts me to it mainly is the endless long road it was built around. Salem Street is prefect for people like me who easily get lost. Modern cafes dotted along the street have become my home for the past 4 weeks. I eat, write, make phone calls, shop, edit the magazine and work till dawn while drinking tons of lemon and pomegranate juices. My day is made when Kathem Alsaher, my favourite Iraqi singer, comes on one of the plasma screen TVs in the cafe. Only then I feel I am in Iraq.
 
 
I often drift into thoughts about my life in the UK when I see the pen I received as a gift for graduating from university, now the pen I use during interviews. A key ring that became the one for my first home in Iraq. A notebook; my travels' official diary. My lucky charm necklaces that I alternate everyday. My business card holder that will be effective from tomorrow. My watch, of course, to keep track of time, and yet another one sitting on my desk amongst lots and lots of cards scattered on my messy desk; a reminder that I am loved.
 
 
It is quite common to be sitting with a client discussing the latest issues in Iraq, or be having dinner with a friend in the evening, when a power cut occurs. Everyone pauses their activities for a few minutes till power resumes, and they carry on going about their business as normal. Like someone has paused a movie for a few minutes, or seconds sometimes. This happens several times a day.
 
 
I noticed that I yawn much more often and my hair needs more regular washing. My chocolate [http://www.inugg.com/  ugg boots] have now become yellowy cream. It never stopped raining since I arrived and the days get much colder at night. Mud puddles became my worst enemy as the city is going under wide construction and development and workmen are everywhere. The only problem is that in Iraq, workmen take eternity to finish a job.
 
 
I moved into a block of apartments in a secluded village just outside of Sulaimaniya. Thankfully, Sulaimaniya isn't a large city so I am able to reach Salem Street in just under half an hour, if a taxi passes by that is. Leaving me stranded on top of the hill for the dust to settle right behind my contact lenses. Taxi drivers often think I am crying.
 
 
I will be in Baghdad soon to interview people regarding the magazine cover story as well as a few other stories. I will once again, after many years, visit places in Baghdad I had not been to for almost two decades. Once Zainab the quiet struggling school girl carrying her books to school while adjusting her glasses, now Zainab the editor, the writer, with her dictaphone, pen and notebook, and of course a laptop bag that doesn't fit my laptop in it properly which often makes me look clumsy.
 
 
So here I am, grumbling about mud, dust, rain and [http://www.inugg.com/  uggs]. Having just been scared the devil out of as all lights in my apartment went out whilst in the shower. To crawl my way out and hope someone would call me so my mobile would light the way. Nothing like a power cut during a shower in a secluded home in the mountains of Iraq.
 
 
I apologize for the long absence as settling in has not been easy. With no internet at home, I am truly lost.
 
 
I am here. I live here. I work here. I am pursuing my dreams here. This is where I want to be and these are only the beginnings of what I want to do.
 
 
== Footwear and Foot Problems ==
 
 
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 43.1 million Americans (one in six people) have foot problems. Women are nine times more at risk than men because females are more likely to wear tight or poorly-fitted shoes.
 
 
During an average day of walking, the feet bear the equivalent weight of several tons. When combined with poorly-fitting shoes, those forces can lead to a number of painful conditions. Two common foot problems associated with shoe fit are bunions and hammertoes.
 
 
A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe (the metatarsophalangeal joint). It occurs when the big toe is misaligned, with the tip angling inward toward the other toes. This pushes the base of the joint outward. The skin over the protruding joint can become red, swollen and painful. The joint can become stiff and swollen, causing pain while wearing shoes or walking.
 
 
Hammertoe is a condition in which one or more of the toes is bent upward at the middle joint, causing the affected toe(s) to look like a hammer. A callus can also develop on top of the toe. It most commonly affects the second toe. Initially, the joint is still moveable and can be straightened. But if the condition isn’t treated, the joint can become stiff and rigid.
 
 
The Need for Support
 
 
Philadelphia Podiatrist Edward Chairman, D.P.M., says adult feet need support to bear the weight of standing and walking. Shoes without support increase the risk for foot problems, like bunions and hammertoes.
 
 
One popular line of footwear is UGG®. Chairman says some women are wearing [http://www.inugg.com/  ugg boots] because they are soft, comfortable and wide enough to relieve pressure on the toes. So, even patients with bunions and hammertoes find them to be more comfortable than some shoes and boots. However, over time, women tend to develop more pain and discomfort. Chairman says that’s because boots like the UGGs have no support. The extra pressure on the feet eventually causes alignment problems in the toes to worsen. Although bunions and hammertoes are typically more common in middle-aged and older women, Chairman is seeing the early signs of the problems in teenagers who “live” in their [http://www.inugg.com/  uggs].
 
 
Chairman recommends that women who want to use footwear that doesn’t have adequate support get custom-made orthotics, or shoe inserts. The orthotics are designed to minimize force on the feet and improve foot function. For UGGs and similar boots, he recommends sports orthotics, which are a little bulkier and longer than orthotics designed for dress shoes. [http://www.inugg.com/  cheap ugg boots] .
 
 
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Revision as of 10:47, 23 March 2009

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