Archive for June, 2008

Jun 18 2008

I Feel So Much Better Now

Published by under Blog

I think I’m finally emerging from whatever stupour has had me under its spell for the past week or so. It’s not that I’ve been unwell, I’ve just felt so lethargic and incapable of doing anything. I’ve found my eyes begin to close as I stare at my keyboard in work; Lottie has been talking to me and I’ve just phased out; when reading a book or the newspaper, I’ve had to go back and read the same paragraph more than two or three times. Yesterday, I was late for work because I couldn’t get up off the chair at home. It’s been disconcerting – I wasn’t actually sick, but I didn’t feel well either.

As and from yesterday evening however, I am feeling much better. I have a renewed vigour and the world is my oyster. Unlike Darragh though, I have no intention of letting the vile creatures slide down my gullet. Eugh!

Perhaps my blogging frequency will return to a more regular routine now.

2 responses so far

Jun 16 2008

I’m A Telly Addict

Published by under Blog,TV

I watch a lot of TV (well, strictly speaking I buy boxsets and download a lot of TV shows to watch, but you get the idea). I love television and always have. It’s one of the things Lottie and I most enjoy doing together. We’ve watched entire series over a weekend and took less than a month to watch every episode of the new Battlestar Galactica so far. Earlier this year we saw West Wing from start to finish and have found Boston Legal too.

We love Heroes and Doctor Who is religiously followed. We found Lost and lament the loss of Studio 60. Torchwood is brilliant and Ashes to Ashes is an admirable follow on to Life on Mars. House and 24 are pure genius. The more recent Pushing Daisies and Reaper have so much promise.

Sometimes we don’t always agree though. I despise Smallville and, while I think if Lottie was honest with herself she would admit its crapness, she still keeps up to date with it. The OC was shockingly poor and I’m glad Lottie no longer has it to watch. I don’t really follow Prison Break or Bones, but they’re not that bad.

Thankfully, we both agree that One Tree Hill, The Hills, Hollyoaks, most reality TV shows, Grey’s Anatomy and many more are awful.

Then there are those shows that we haven’t gotten around to yet, but probably will: The Sopranos, Weeds, The Tudors, Rome, Nip/Tuck (the later series).

For the most part, I avoid chick-targeted shows, but Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty do catch my attention – they’re just so funny. And that brings us to the newest show we’ve started to watch. Gossip Girl is a TV spin-off of the series of books by Cecily von Ziegesar revolving around the lives of socialite young adults growing up on New York’s Upper East Side who attend elite academic institutions while dealing with sex, drugs, jealousy, and other teenage issues. I guess it’s maybe a US take on Channel 4’s Skins. It’s a surprisingly clever show which has characters which are slightly less two-dimensional than the usual US show. I think it’s caught my attention because it feels like a natural follow on from one my favourite movies, Cruel Intentions. We’ve watched just the first three episodes, so it may all go horribly wrong, but for the moment I’m enjoying it.

But, of course, all of this pales into insignificance when we remember that Rose returns next Saturday night. Who knew Billie Piper would become one of the most iconic characters in a TV series ever. Rose Tyler returns to Doctor Who at the earlier time of 6.40 on Saturday on BBCOne. Here is a preview:

22 responses so far

Jun 13 2008

Dublin Writers Festival – Deutchland’s Descendants, Dilapidated Debates And Dublin’s Droogs*

Published by under Blog,Politics

This evening was a very varied affair. As I raced from work, I began to question this volunteerism that Darragh had inspired in me. I was reminded that inspiration can be negative too. Someone inspired Hitler, someone inspired Stalin, someone inspired Bush and Darragh inspired me.

My first duty as volunteer for the Dublin Writers Festival is to collect award winning author, Justin Cartwright, from the Morrison and escort him to the Project Theatre in Templebar. That took all of 5 minutes.

Once at the venue I was given a variety of duties, one of which was providing the microphone to audience members during the question-time section of each event. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to watch, firstly, the readings and discussion between Hugo Hamilton and Justin Cartwright, and secondly, the ‘debate’ with Ivana Bacik, Alan Gilsenan and Roy Foster. David McWilliams was a disappointing no-show.

Deutchland’s Descendants

Hamilton and Cartwright read sections from their respective novels, Disguise and The Song Before it is Sung. Both novels address issues which arose from a post war Germany and while the books are both quite different in style, it is understandable why these two authors were paired together.

Hugo Hamilton’s Disguise is an explorative piece, examining the concept of personal identity, through his character, Boris Opp. Opp was a Jewish child in Germany who was rescued by the father of a woman who had just lost her own young child in the war. The father encourages her to raise Opp as her own child in replacement of her lost son. It would be many years later before Opp would discover the truth and embark upon a personal journey of inner discovery in order to concrete his own identity as a Jew raised without the knowledge of his heritage.

This search for identity is a theme Hamilton returns to time and time again, and it is understandable. He was born of a German mother to a nationalist Irish father and was raised on a strict linguistic diet of German and Gaeilge, which just made him view the English language as a taboo challenge that he would face in secret. It is clear that in these roots of learning he not only found his calling as a writer, but also found a question he would ask himself repeatedly throughout his life – “Who am I?” This question of identity is at the heart of his work. Reading three passages from Disguises, Hamilton was a treat to listen to – lacking in ego without being self-effacing, he proved to be engaging and interesting.

Cartwright, on the other hand, introduced his novel by telling us that one reviewer described it as nothing more that an exercise in smugness. The audience laughed, I laughed, but it became evident very quickly that this reviewer may have hit upon something. He spent far too long reading a passage (I say passage, but I fear it extended over a number of chapters). The novel’s concept of a grad student who had become obsessed with the story of (and the videoed evidence of) the hanging of the conspirators in a plot to kill Hitler sounded fascinating. Intrigue, secrecy, the uncovering off a mystery, murder, shocking outcomes and historical relevance made this novel sound like a fantastic read, however Cartwright‘s over indulgence in the use of sex and sexuality throughout even the ‘short’ piece he read for us showed us an author who’s mind was clearly wandering as he wrote. The constant reference to sex served no purpose and seemed to be thrown in at some very inappropriate points. Perhaps he was aiming to shock, perhaps he was trying to emphasise that even in the depressing post war times of the Fatherland sex was as vital a part of daily life as the struggle for existence. But I doubt it. It felt more like the ramblings of a man who got bored with his subject matter and wanted to throw in a little titillation.

That said, I found him entertaining and the chairperson’s constant referral back to Hugo Hamilton on a number of points betrayed her own disinterest (probably not the right word, but I won’t go so far as to say dislike either) in Cartwright and made the discussion an enjoyable one to deconstruct. Hamilton may have been the nicer, more amiable participant, but there was no getting away from the fact that this was Cartwright‘s show – the high volume of audience questions, geared towards him and his novels made this self-evident.

Dilapidated Debates

The festival brochure built the next event as a debate – a debate on Irish Values. We are told that Independent Senator, Ivana Bacik, the most eminent and distinguished of Irish historians, Roy Foster, Ireland’s most prolific documentary maker, Alan Gilsenan, and economist, broadcaster and writer, David McWilliams, would together unpick the moral and social fabric of 21st Irish society. Answering such questions as “has Ireland’s newfound prosperity changed our core values?” and “was the Ireland of old a purer, simpler and therefore kinder society?“, these participant were to debate the present state of Ireland’s moral code, if indeed we have one at all.

Roy FosterDisappointingly, there was to be no debate. The poorly chosen lineup were more like a group of friends having a chat – from the panel there were very few novel points raised (if any) and all were either too fearful or too lazy to be drawn into a discussion, by the audience, on the relevance of Catholicism (or Christianity) to today’s core values, on the influence of consumerism (Roy Foster pointedly said he would only briefly touch on this point, as if being instructed to avoid it) and indeed, none would be drawn on what the core values of today’s Ireland are or should be. Ivana Bacik was the only panelist who seemed interested in having a true adversarial debate but even she, in her opening address, made it clear that this would be a far more discursive affair and even apologised in advance for the possibly that she may become too hostile. No such luck!

Perhaps, had McWilliams shown up (I still haven’t found out why he was unable to attend) he may have added more to the ‘debate’, focusing on the impact of economic shifts on our society, but I doubt it. There was too much friendly patting on the backs going on for this to be anything other than a lighthearted event.

There were so many points that were only briefly discussed and all without any depth. There were a number of issues which were brushed over, as I mentioned above, but there were a number of extremely relevant and interesting issues that I would have expected to have been discussed as a matter of course , which never arose at all. I hope to talk more about this subject over the next day or so.

Dublin’s Droogs*

After the event we taxied up to the Bernard Shaw in Portobello where DublinStreets presented ‘Shoot Me: A global exhibition of Street Style and Street Art‘. I have never before been surrounded by such trendiness, oddball creativity is dress sense or general ‘I’m so uncool, I’m cool‘ attitudes. The site looks at the various styles of Dublin’s modern cultural scene and doles out some very unusual pictures. I think Darragh will follow up with a more indepth look at the site and its ‘art show’ in the Bernard Shaw, but in the meantime, check these out:

*Droogs refers to the teenage über-fashionistas of Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, who dressed insanely to rebel against society’s conservativism

5 responses so far

Jun 12 2008

Lisbon And Me – The Exit Poll

Published by under Blog,Politics

Tom Raftery is conducting a mock exit poll here. Head on over and register your vote.

Previous Posts

6. Lisbon and Me – My Final Decision?

5. Lisbon and Me – Roche’s Reactionary Rant

4. Lisbon and Me – Consequences

3. Political Apathy and a Yearning for Change

2. Lisbon and Me – Deciding The Future

1. Lisbon and Me

6 responses so far

Jun 11 2008

The Sky Over Ballina

Published by under Blog

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Jun 11 2008

The Credible Hulk

Published by under Blog,Movie Review

A huge thank you to for tickets to see The Incredible Hulk last night in the Savoy. Darragh and I grabbed a pint before hand and chatted about a variety of things – the last version of the Hulk being one of them. I was apprehensive about seeing this movie, the newest incarnation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby‘s Not So Jolly Green Giant, after Ang Lee’s dire Hulk in 2003. I wondered if Louis Letterier‘s direction could do for the Hulk franchise what Batman Begins did for Gotham’s Caped Crusader.

Step One: Eric Bana has been replaced by the far superior actor, Edward Norton, in a role that surprised me. Norton, famous for his dramatic turns in 25th Hour and American History X and the more commercial Fight Club, seems to have shunned the spotlight in recent years. It was refreshing to see someone of his callibre take on a role that was inevitably 50% CG (seemingly Norton gave the movie a complete rewrite before taking on the role). Someone at Marvel has a massive ingenious plan in the works with the casting of Norton as Bruce Banner and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. One can only wonder who will be playing Captain America – my money is on Ryan Gosling.

Step Two: Assume the viewer has some concept of the origins of the Hulk. Ang Lee’s Hulk went 40 minutes before revealing ‘the big guy’. The script by Zac Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand and Fantastic Four) and Norton, gives the audience a brief re-run of the back story during the opening credits before getting straight into the story of the on-the-run Bruce Banner.

Step Three: Hulk Smash! The Incredible Hulk should not be an arthouse exercise, it should not have audiences questioning their existence or pondering the injustices committed by man to man. It should have plenty of car-throwing, building-smashing, tank-totaling action and this movie has this in abundance. The action sequences are what define the Hulk – he is, after all, a giant green monster. The dramatic pauses and difficult moral decisions are left to Bruce Banner and Norton can do that in his sleep. Getting the character of the Hulk right was the most important part of this film and for the most part, they pull it off.

In interviews, Letterier claimed he wanted to recreate the realism of Gollum from Lord of the Rings, using similar techniques to achieve it. For much of the movie, where the Hulk is in the dark or we catch fleeting glances of him, Letterier has got it perfect, but this is not Gollum. Much of the creature effects left me feeling a little disappointed. I wanted to feel something for the character of the Hulk, but I was left pondering the level of detail in the the skin, the impact of the bullets, the cartoonish raindrops on his body. Much of it was excellent (the huge fight scenes with ‘the Abomination’ were visually brilliant), but most of the time the character was a little like graffiti on an otherwise beautiful landscape. And while the two CG monsters fighting at the end of a movie is getting a bit tired at this stage (Iron Man proved it could still be done with style), this is a movie about the Hulk – it could not go any other way.

Step Four: Get the supporting cast right. In recent years, William Hurt has proven himself to be one of the great actors of our time. Since his showstopping turn in David Cronenberg‘s History of Violence, he has really shone. As General Ross, he will not win any Oscars, but he brings a gravitas and respect to the role which may not otherwise be there.

Tim Roth, as Emil Blonsky/The Abomination, was perfect. Roth was one of my favourite actors from the nineties, but after Million Dollar Hotel and Planet of the Apes, I lost interest in his increasingly obscure roles. It was a treat to see him take on a role like this. In interview he claimed he was convinced by his kids to do this more mainstream, comic-book role. Maybe he should listen to them a little more. Tim Blake Nelson, remembered for his role as the hilarious dimwit, Delmar, in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, steals the screen when he’s there. His energy and excitement do not fit with the small role he has in The Incredible Hulk and it’s clear he has been set up to return (as the new bad guy, The Leader, perhaps) in the potential sequel.

The casting of Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Banner’s long time love interest, was a bit of a damp squib. Played by Jennifer Connelly in Ang Lee’s Hulk, perhaps Connelly should have been given the opportunity to reprise her role. Tyler isn’t bad, but she certainly doesn’t add anything to the movie and when she is placed in peril, I don’t think anyone really cares.

Step Five: Give the Fanboys something to enjoy. I am not a big comic-book eek and I don’t know the many back-stories, sideline plots and various crossovers the Hulk has seen and been through over the past 46 years, but I did spot a number of nods and there was a wonderful moment where Banner fluffs his iconic “You won’t like me when I’m angry” line. This movie will please the fans and the hints towards a forthcoming Avengers movie must be whetting many a geek’s appetite. I can’t wait. Spoiler (highlight to view): Robert Downey Junior’s Tony Stark appearing at the end of the movie was the greatest moment in the whole movie.

Louis Letterier, Zac Penn and Edward Norton have managed to make a movie that more than makes up for the abomination that was 2003’s Hulk. This is not the greatest comic book movie ever made and definitely falls short of last month’s Iron Man, but it has given a renewed vigour to a faded story and I already welcome a sequel. The Incredible Hulk is credible again. Go see it and enjoy the action packed fun.

Update: Rick reviews it further here and is less positive than I am about it.

8 responses so far

Jun 10 2008

Still Laughing After All These Beers

Published by under Blog

We certainly didn’t get up at the crack of dawn last Sunday morning. We were only getting to bed as the sun rose. However, we didn’t waste our day sleeping and by 11.30am everyone was up and at ’em ready for day two of our Kilkenny Cat Laughs adventure.

Raucous Irish Raiders Run Rings Round Rest of World

Anthony and I surreptitiously made our way to The Field for breakfast/lunch while the others made a number of trips back and forth between Kilkenny and Graig. We had a lovely meal (mmm lasagne) before heading towards Fairgreen Football Pitch to watch a bunch of comedians run around in shorts, hungover, dehydrated and horribly unfit. To be fair, they were surprisingly good (but what would I know – the last time I ran around a football pitch I lasted three minutes and nearly died of a heart attack). The teams were Ireland versus ‘Rest of The World’ and most of them were taking it very seriously. At one stage I thought Des Bishop was going to throttle his own teammate for not trying hard enough. Jason Byrne, Tommy Tiernan, Neil Delamere, David O’Doherty, Des Bishop and Andy Parsons were among the many who turned out to play. Karl Spain was the commentator for the afternoon.

Despite a number of opportunities to take the lead, the Rest of World team finally succumbed to the might of the Hibernocomic’s footballing prowess.

Post match, we returned to The Field for a couple of pints before our first gig of the evening.

Blood on the Stagefloor

In the Kilkenny Ormond, MC Josh Thomas, interviewed here, acts in a very self-effacing and shy manner while delivering a brilliant but too short comic set. He was charged with introducing each act which began with Damian Clark who’s observational comedy styling was extremely funny. Although towards the end of his act, he seemed to waver slightly as much of the audience seemed to wonder where he was taking one particular routine. He shocked us all by performing the punchline to music and it was all worth the build up. Perfect comic timing.

Josh went on to introduce a comedian I have enjoyed watching on television for years, Andy Parsons. The bastard!! Now, admittedly, wearing a hat, waistcoat and tie to a comedy gig and then sitting in the middle of the second row behind two fourteen year olds is, in retrospect, a really stupid idea. Parson zoned in on me and made me his comedy punching bag for his entire set. Truthfully though, he was extremely funny and had me crying with laughter by the end. It was all in good fun and his final line finishing on me was comedy gold.

Jason Byrne, the big pull of the night, stood up on stage an instead focused on the two teens in front of me. Listening to Andy Parsons from the back of the room, Byrne had assumed that when he talked about the ‘kids’ in the front row he meant they were two adults who looked young. He was genuinely shocked to see two fourteen year olds in front of him. Jason Byrne was without a doubt the best thing about the weekend – he tread the line between crude and funny with perfect ease, as he ‘educated’ the two boys on why they should avoid women and stick to masturbation. The man worked so hard and was pumped with so much energy that he gave himself a nosebleed on stage. Rather than stop, he continued brilliantly though with an audience member’s tissue stuck up his nose. Anthony got a great shot on his phone:

Click for larger image

Hitting the Rivercourt once again, I discovered a real taste for Smithwicks (sponsors of the Festival) and while there were free pints up in the Kilkenny Ormond, I was content to pay for them in the Rivercourt (I guess advertising works). On a weekend where everyone seemed so relaxed, visitors and locals alike, there was one barman in the Rivercourt who really annoyed me. He obviously didn’t want to anywhere near the place; he clearly hated people; it was very evident that he despised his job. When a woman asked for ice in her drink, he was furious with her and told her he didn’t have enough and she would have to do without. I had to intervene and tell him to cut the attitude at which point his manager heard me and pulled the barman aside. I sincerely hope he was on bottle-washing duty for the remainder of the night.

A Divine Comedy

Our final show was a collection of unknowns (well, unknown to me – many people seemed to know them quite well). A line-up of Kevin Gildea, John Henderson, Danny Bhoy and Mike Wilmot had me, at times, in convulsions of laughter.

I am aware that Lottie thought Danny Bhoy was particularly good looking, but he was extremely funny beyond his girlfriend-stealing handsomeness. Gildea struggled for most of his act but his ‘big finish’ utilising the back of pizza boxes was brilliant and he definitely redeemed himself with this routine. John Henderson, on the other hand, was quite forgettable and while I have no feelings of dislike for the man, I can’t say I liked his act either – he was quite unremarkable.

Wilmot is crude, loud, controversial and I couldn’t help but laugh despite myself. His seemingly bitter anger towards life was surprisingly funny and his use of the C word (the word I most revile in the English language – or any language for that matter) actually made me laugh. Damn you Wilmot for being so funny.

Previous Post:

Beer and Laughter in Kilkenny

Other Posts:

Lottie, here and here.

Anthony McG, here and here.

3 responses so far

Jun 09 2008

Lisbon And Me – My Final Decision?

Published by under Blog,Politics

It’s few weeks (May 16th) now since I began researching the Lisbon Treaty and its ratification’s repercussions on the Irish Constitution, on the lives of the Irish people and, most importantly, on my life.

I do not envy political analysts and journalists who have to cover these things. I guess, like anything else, if you are passionate about it, you will find it interesting, you will find it exciting and you will find it easy to comprehend. I am not a political analyst. I am the common man, trying to understand this major change to Europe and I have struggled.

My Struggle

I began by gathering information from a number of sources: the Referendum Commission’s website and handbook (the latter being a useless waste of paper – it doesn’t even have the referendum’s date on it); the websites of the Yes campaign (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, etc.); the websites of the No side (Sinn Fein, Libertas, etc.), I talked with friends who were in favour of it; I spoke with friends who were against it. Ultimately, it was clear that very few people had all the answers I sought, so I tried to summarise the Treaty in one succinct post. Now, any regular reader will know that I don’t really do brevity, but in this instance I really tried to chop it all down into small easily digestible pieces. It was impossible and while my post Lisbon and Me has gained a lot of hits and some favourable comments, I don’t feel I was able to do any better job that the many sources I had consulted.

I progressed with my research and asked more questions and very quickly began to veer towards a No vote. Once the pendulum swung that way, I made a concerned effort to seek answers and explanations from the Yes camp, so I didn’t blindly vote with my gut instinct. No one has been able to give me a sufficient reason to vote Yes. I even consulted the good people in the European Union House on Dawson/Molesworth Street who have some lovely hand-written signs pleading with people to go in and ask them questions. They were understandably biased towards a Yes and after speaking with them, I began to have even more adverse feelings for the Yes campaign. I asked why I should vote Yes, but they seemed to be throwing facts and figures at me that were aimed at telling me why I should not vote No. What’s the difference? I was looking for honest and solid explanation as to why the Treaty will be good, but they just wanted to tell me why voting No would be bad.

And that seems to be the consensus approach of all the Yes campaigners. Rubbish the No-sayers and hope propaganda and scare-mongering will secure ratification. Not that the No campaign has been any better. The approach of the No campaign has been to rely on people’s disinterest in gaining information and preying upon that, or to shout down the Yes campaigners and make outlandish claims about abortion, unemployment, high taxation, neutrality and war.

Exercise Your Franchise

And yet, I have settled on a decision. Firstly, I will definitely vote on Thursday. I don’t like the argument “I don’t understand it, therefore I won’t vote on it”. Saying that is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t understand it, therefore my vote won’t matter, I don’t matter”. If your opinion is that you don’t understand the Treaty, then have that opinion heard and vote No. This may result in the Treaty being sent to us again for another referendum, but maybe the powers that be will make a greater effort to educate the common man the next time around. Not voting will mean your opinion and your lack of understanding is irrelevant.

I Will Vote No

I will vote No for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the electorate has not been given a clear picture of what is involved in changing our Constitution. This is the fault of the Referendum Commission and the Government. I am one of the people who confidently voted in the current government and I feel let down by this debacle.

Secondly, the Yes campaign has been unable to convince me that the Treaty is a good thing. I have received vague answers which only serve to convince me that many of the Yes campaigners do not fully understand the Treaty themselves. Even the sections I am in favour of, seem to baffle some of the Yessers I have spoken with. Much as I am irritated by the poor campaigning by the No side also, it is not their job to do the convincing. Many of those calling for a No vote are merely seeking to maintain the status quo. If the Treaty is not ratified, we will not be kicked out of the EU, we will not be fined, we will not feel the mighty hammer of France and Germany down upon our figurative brows. A vote No, is a vote to keep things as they are.

Now, I am a liberal and very much in favour of progress and change to further this progress, but change for the sake of change and change without fully understanding the outcomes of those changes is stupid and irresponsible. A vote for No will allow time for understanding of what changes are proposed. It will allow time to fully appreciate what positive progress is required and what we need to do to achieve it.

Voting No is not anti-Europe. Some of the Yes campaigners are actually suggesting this is a referendum on Europe as a whole. It is not. I am very much pro-EU and I believe that future prosperity for out little nation can only come in partnership with the EU, but partnership is very different to being one nation. The Treaty is a step towards a Supernation ruled predominantly by the European Parliament. The EU Constitution was defeated in France and the Netherlands, and the Lisbon Treaty is a watered down version of this Constitution (this is stated by many members of the Yes camp and by many EU Ministers). A No vote will not remove us from Europe. We will still continue to benefit from our close ties and trade links.

I am still not happy with many aspects of the new voting systems to be introduced by Lisbon. The Yes group makes a great fuss about unanimous decisions being required for all major issues which will effect Europe as a whole and Ireland in particular. But these unanimous decisions are not decisions made by the people, they are made by the government and we live in a country where the two main parties, the two largest parties, who are in opposition to each other, have such blinkered pro-Europe stances that it must raise some alarm bells every time a major vote on Europe arises.

At Last, A Conclusion

I am not trying to convince anyone to vote No. I am simply laying out my reasons for doing so. This referendum is a perfect example of bad bureaucracy in action. It has been a shambles from day one and no side can claim any moral high ground. The Yes group have been inefficient have been saying nothing quite loudly. The No campaigners have focused on false-prophet issues such as abortion and neutrality, which are not directly effected by the Treaty and have failed to put up a convincing argument, relying instead on the nervous nature of the electorate.

So, has everyone else made up their minds? How will you be voting?

Previous Posts

5. Lisbon and Me – Roche’s Reactionary Rant

4. Lisbon and Me – Consequences

3. Political Apathy and a Yearning for Change

2. Lisbon and Me – Deciding The Future

1. Lisbon and Me

20 responses so far

Jun 09 2008

Tickets To Tom Stoppard At The Dublin Writers Festival

Published by under Overlooked Classics,TV

Sir Tom Stoppard, one of the world’s most celebrated and influential playwrights and author of the fantastic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, will be one of the highlights of the Dublin Writers Festival which runs from this Wednesday to Sunday in a number of locations in Dublin City Centre, including the Project Arts Theatre, MacNeill Theatre, Morrison Hotel, FilmBase, Peacock Theatre and Irish Writers’ Centre

On Friday at 6pm, Tom Stoppard will be in the MacNeill Theatre in Trinity College and if you would like a pair of tickets to attend this unique event, it’s very easy: just leave a comment and tell me why I should give you the tickets. Are you a Stoppard fan? Are you an avid reader and want to attend something at the writer’s festival? Are you just curious? Perhaps you just find Tom Stoppard extremely sexy? Whatever your reason, this is a great opportunity to witness first hand the mind of a a literary genius.

Click on the programme for a better idea of what else is on at this years Festival or click here or here for more information.

3 responses so far

Jun 09 2008

Being Pissed On At The Radiohead Gig

Published by under Blog,Music,Night Out

Sadly, the weather was incredible and the title of this post does not refer to raindrops on my noggin. Instead, it relates to the middle-aged weirdo who was high on god-only-knows-what at the Radiohead gig on Saturday night. He will thus forth be known to us as Pissy Guy.

Maybe I’m wrong (I’m notoriously naive when it comes to these matters) but it definitely seemed that there was far more than alcohol coursing through Pissy Guy’s system to make him dance in a disturbingly writhing manner, to make him profess his hatred and then his unending love for Andrew, to make him wear his dark sunglasses well into the night (maybe he was being cool – it was hard to tell) and lastly, to make him relieve himself in the middle of the field outside Malahide Castle, surrounded by other concert-goers. Why are drugs such a significant part of Irish culture (and world culture) today? Are our lives so miserable and uninteresting that we need to fill our systems with a variety of life threatening chemicals. It is here that my own hypocrisy shines through – I’m a big drinker and while I could attempt to explain and excuse my drinking habits, all explanations and excuses would fall flat on their face – I am aware, like many Irish people, I drink too much. But I digress, this post is about my ire for the ever-expanding drug culture in Ireland.

In addition to Pissy Guy, there were a number of other strung-out oddballs at the gig. Bug-eyed Boy who repeatedly asked me if I was enjoying the gig was particularly bothersome as the gig hadn’t started at that point. My trek to the bathroom passed two separate blokes who had passed out (and received swift medical attention, to the credit of the gig organisers) while surrounded by their equally high-as-kites friends.

I have lost one of my best friends to drug use. No, he is not dead, but he is most definitely lost. In recent times, he has apparently got his life in some semblance of order – he doesn’t do as much drugs as he used to – but this guy had so much potential, was loved by so many around him and could have done so much with his life. Instead, he wasted the potential and is now wasting his life. It’s very sad that whenever he comes up in conversation these days, the best anyone can manage to say about him is “he’s not looking too bad” or “well, he’s looking better than he used to“. I referred to my naivety earlier: this best friend of mine was well known on Wicklow’s druggy scene and yet, I knew nothing about it. I can’t even look back and retrospectively pretend I was in denial. I truly didn’t know, didn’t imagine and didn’t see that my always-hyper best mate was taking any illicit substances. That’s more than naivety – it’s stupidity.

Drug use in Ireland today, is on the increase and this will not change. Even someone as blind to it all as me can see it in every bar, at every gig, on every street corner. If I decided right now that I wanted to get high, I’m fairly confident I could ‘score a hit’ fairly easily. Is it the economic downturn that is making people turn to drugs to ease the pain? Unlikely, as the upsurge began in more prosperous times. So, is it the ready money of Celtic Tiger Ireland that explains the increase? Possibly – Justine Delaney Wilson‘s book, The High Society: Drugs and the Irish Middle Class, controversial and over-reaching as it may be, does educate the reader to Ireland’s drug culture and it definitely shows the connection between wealth and drug use, but it doesn’t sufficiently explain it, as drug abuse is still a predominantly ‘lower-class’ (perhaps ‘poverty stricken’ may be a better choice of words) problem. Or is it simply the worldwide drug culture filtering into the lives of the Irish. Regardless the reasons for it, it’s sad, it’s scary and it’s here to stay.

Incidentally, the gig itself was excellent. It’s the first Radiohead gig I’ve been to and I’d love to see them again (perhaps at a different, smaller venue though). Andrew gives his review of the gig here, with a little more emphasis on the actual music. 🙂

11 responses so far

Jun 06 2008

Beer And Laughter In Kilkenny

Published by under Adoption,Blog,Movies,Night Out

I almost feel like I should apologise for lengthly blog posts. I like to read short, snappy, to-the-point posts and I’m fully aware that I have a tendency to rabbit on in a random, rambling way. I do try to spice my posts up with pictures, odd punctuation(!) and the use of bold type but I wonder if people really read it or do they just scan. Either way, here is my recollections of my highlight-of-the-year-so-far long weekend in Kilkenny.

Darragh Doyle

I’m sure Mr Doyle has had enough praise of late with his epic blog post and subsequent Blog Award, but I can’t write this post without first thanking him for dragging us down to Kilkenny over the weekend, for putting us up (or is it ‘putting up with us’?) in his home, and for guiding us around the maze that is the Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival. Thank you so much Darragh. You rock muchly!

The Journey Down

After the Wedding on Friday, we went back to my uncle’s house for the night and by the time we finally got up on Saturday, everyone else had already left. So, we pulled ourselves together, packed the car, switched on the GPS and got on the road…to Dunnes Stores just around the corner. After a surprisingly delicious breakfast (I’ve had some very bad experiences in some Dunnes Stores cafés) we finally embarked upon the Cill Chainnigh trail. Firstly stopping off in Graiguenamanagh (home of May’s Monthly Blog Award Winner), where we said a brief hello to Darragh and Niamh, we then headed into Kilkenny City (because if you call it a town the locals will stone you) where we picked up a chilled out and happy (he had just found free wi-fi) Anthony.

Returning to Graiguenamanagh for tea, sandwiches and showers, it wasn’t long before we were sitting in the window of Morrisson’s Dinky Bar in Kilkenny City, waiting for the final member of our motley crew, Mary, to join us. Drinks ensued and we were laughing away long before we hit the first of our comedy gigs. A small regret: Darragh was volunteering for much of the festival so had to depart and leave the rest of us to it. Needless to say this provided him with some great opportunities, not least the opportunity to interview the meek Josh Thomas. But we would meet up with him after the gig.

The Watergate Scandal

In 1972, Richard Nixon‘s staff broke into a hotel room at the Watergate Hotel which was the beginning of the end for the crooked President. Fraud, coercion, illegal wiretapping and political espionage were among the many crimes committed and it all stared at the Watergate Hotel.

The Watergate Theatre in Kilkenny is nothing like that. Random, hectic, zany, bizarre – therein lies the improvisational skills of Ian Coppinger, Michelle Read, Paul Tylak, Brendan Hunt and Michael Orton-Toliver. From singing musicals about the word ‘Meanwhile’ to the simulation of a man giving birth, from Donkeys doing the long jump (because cheese is great) to Super Hero Serial Killers, there was genius and hilarity in abundance.

We headed down to the Rivercourt Hotel, where Darragh was based to have our ‘final’ drink of the night. We were lucky to find a bunch of seats and nestled into them for the next couple of hours, before heading towards the taxi rank. This was looking to be the low point of the night – the queue for the taxis must have been approximately three hundred and seventy eight kilometers long (no exaggeration), and Graiguenamanagh seemed like a distant hope. So, we decided to head up to the Kilkenny Ormond for a final final drink of the night. We, like James Bond (me) , Jason Bourne (Anthony) and Maxwell Smart (Darragh) all rolled into one tipsy group, managed to wrangle our way into the Festival Club, where, after each evening’s carry-on, all the performers would go. We were thrilled to catch up with Mr Ken and have an all-too-brief beverage with him. Meeting him almost eclipsed our photo op with the Improvarios, Brendan Hunt and Michael Orton-Toliver. Two lovely guys who were a fine example of American talent sneaking nicely into a very Irish festival.

The night also saw Des Bishop perform Léim Thart (Jump Around), both as Gaeilge agus as béarla. The man is very funny, and while he might not be my favourite comedian, he is one of the most provocative and inspirational I’ve seen in years. He is one of the reasons I’ve started to learn Irish (all over again).

The great Jason Byrne also posed for a photo-op with us, but I was too nervous to ask for a photo with Máiread Farrell (I’m not joking). I love her on Ray D’Arcy‘s show and she was very funny on the Panel when I saw her earlier this year in the Mermaid Theatre. I need to grow a backbone, or ask Darragh to attack more people for me.

We were the last to leave the club that night and is it any wonder – we had the privileged opportunity to perform on stage at the Smithwick Cat Laughs Festival.

A night that should have ended in a long queue for a taxi a number of hours earlier ended up being an amazing amalgam of meeting great people, dancing madly and admiring others from afar. We left the Ormond around 5am and, magically, a taxi was waiting for us. Mr Reggae Taxi Driver brought us home to Graiguenamanagh in the bizarre fog of Kilkenny and we all flopped straight into bed, already looking forward to what the second day might bring.

For more succinct retellings of the weekend’s events, please visit Lottie’s blog here or Anthony’s blog here and there.

8 responses so far

Jun 05 2008

Travors Strikes Again

Published by under Blog

The Irishman Who Could has struck again with his new comic strip doodle strip. First there was Garlfield Minus Garlfield. Now we have doodlepipski.

Be sure to check out Travors’ Blog and Garfield Minus Garfield too.

8 responses so far

Jun 05 2008

Volunteering For The Dublin Writers Festival

Published by under Blog

Yesterday evening, I met with the other volunteers for the Dublin Writers Festival. The event runs from 11th to 15th June and this year is privileged enough to have writers of such calibre as Tom Stoppard, Ian Rankin, Colin Bateman, J.P. Donleavy, David McWilliams among others.

Part of my duties will involve collecting writers from the airport, making sure they are happily settled, collecting tickets at the events and being a general dogsbody, which I am really looking forward to. Inspired by the unstoppable and ever-volunteering Darragh Doyle, I felt the urge to be more involved in the many events which grace our capital and this is one festival I was looking forward to, so I threw my hat in the ring.

Last night, I finally got to meet organiser Lean Ní Chleirigh, along with festival Jack Gilligan and Maura Carty(I think that’s right – but I may be corrected) of the Dublin City Arts Council. We were all made feel extremely welcome and were treated to a couple of post-meeting drinks in Grainger’s on the bottom (or is it top?) of Talbot Street.

Among the attendees was a crazed American woman who, surpisingly, I look forward to meeting again. She has been so many places and seen so many things that she can’t help but be interesting. Liana Ciaglo is the Director of Performing Arts at Bay Path College in Massachusetts and she immediately had my attention when she spoke of seeing Les Liaisons Dangereuses recently in New York. Apparently an ex-student of hers is performing in the play. Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses is probably my favourite novel and both Cruel Intentions and Dangerous Liaisons rank high on my top twenty list of favourite films. Christopher Hampton’s Dangerous Liaisons is still one of the greatest plays I have seen performed in Dublin. So, I suspect I will have some riveting conversations with this born again Buddhist. Roll on the metaphysical debates.

Dublin Writers Festival 2008

This year’s festival, as with previous years, seems to be flying in under the radar, so I would encourage anyone who reads this to check out the Festival Website and come along to any event that grabs your attention. Personally, I am eagre to hear Tom Stoppard, author of the incredible Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a funny and existentialist examination of Hamlet’s bit players on the outskirts of the Shakespearean tragedy.

Sunday afternoon sees a discussion of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, with Victoria Glendinning, John Mullan and Bruce Arnold in attendance. As I’m sure is the case with many people, Gulliver’s Travels is one of the first books I remember reading and the fantastic journey Gulliver embarked upon – the characters he met and the places he saw – was wonderful to read.

Ivana Bacik, David MacWilliams, Roy Foster and Alan Gilsenan with debate values in modern Irish society on Thursday night. This promises to be a lively and informative evening and you will definitely see me there.

The Festival will also be graced by the presence of John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), Tobias Wolff (This Boys Life), poets Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Harry Clifton, Booker-shortlisted author Sebastian Barry, ‘chick lit’ bestseller Marian Keyes, great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud and author of Hideous Kinky, Esther Freud, and many others, culminating with a discussion between two prolific crime and thriller writers Ian Rankin and Colin Bateman. Rankin, who has written a number of novels such as the Inspector Rebus novels has had much of his work transferred to the small screen. So, too has Bateman with Divorcing Jack getting a big screen outing in 1998.

Pick up a Festival brochure, log on to the website or just drop me a mail if you want to find out more about this excellent event.

5 responses so far

Jun 04 2008

In Another Dimension With Voyeuristic Intentions

Published by under Blog,Night Out

That young couple were sitting at the front of the bus again yesterday and I may need to correct my previous estimations of his age. I was reasonably confident that he was no more than 16 years of age as he fondled and fooled with his young future bridezilla, but I see that he has grown some facial hair since I last saw him. This patchwork of follicles make it very clear that he is far older and not a young teen at all. He’ll certainly have no problems getting served in the bars now. Twat!

Okay, I know I occasion a semi-beard and certainly went a year will a full grown bush on my face, but I’m confident I can pull it off. Why, oh why do people try to grow these things when all they are likely to achieve is something resembling Team America’s master of disguise, Gary. If you are going to look like your friends threw an open bottle of glue and a gerbil at you then this is not a look for you (although why someone might throw an open bottle of glue and a gerbil at you is beyond me. In fact, if you have friends who are likely to throw an open bottle of glue and a gerbil at you, then you may want to stop concentrating on growing a beard and focus on getting some new friends instead). Kids, bum fluff on your face does not make you look older, it does not make you look more mature, it does not give you an air of mystery. Kids, bum fluff on your face makes you look like you have bum fluff on your face. That’s it!

Anyway, on a different note, The Sugar Club are running the Rocky Horror Picture Show on Friday 13th and a friend of mine suggested we go. It’s a dressy-uppy thing, so Dublin City Centre may be invaded by suspender-wearing, fishnet-adorned, wig-wielding oddballs for a time(warp). It should be fun and I think a few of us will be going. Although, I suspect our group are more likely to be seen dressed as Brad or Janet rather than Frank or Magenta.

4 responses so far

Jun 04 2008

Trainspotting á La Devious Theatre

Published by under Blog

The beautiful people in Devious Theatre in Kilkenny are hoping their next production won’t be derailed by controversies. They are being highly ambitious by taking on Irving Welsh’s Trainspotting. It’s a huge and brave undertaking and I can’t wait to get down to see it.

For those of you whose heads were in the sand in 1996, Trainspotting charts the development of Renton’s drug addiction in recession stricken Scotland. Famously played by Ewan McGregor on film, the now exam-free Ross Costigan is currently immersing himself in the character. Let’s hope he doesn’t take the method acting technique too seriously. Here’s Rossa:

Other cast members include Stephen Colfer as Danny “Spud” Murphy, Maria Murray as Alison, Niall Sheehy as Francis Begbie and the far too cool Ken McGuire as Tommy McKenzie. For more details check out Devious Theatre‘s website or MySpace page or Bebo.

Really looking forward to seeing this show and I wish everyone involved all the best with the preparations.

Trainspotting runs from 24th to 28th June and tickets are on sale now from the Watergate Theater, Kilkenny, 056 – 7761674.

Sidenote:While in Kilkenny over the weekend, we enjoyed some lovely chips and burgers in Joe’s Takeaway, where we nicked this poster:

Sorry about that, Joe!

7 responses so far

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