Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's all just part of the Machine

In completely irrelevant news, Rage Against The Machine have beaten X-Factor finalist #1,237 to the Christmas #1 spot (OK, I admit, I know his name. It's Joe McIlderry. I blame my sister and the endless deluge of Facebook updates posted by reality junkies. Happy?)

Now I must wash away some of the cynicism of my first paragraph. I wanted to see RATM win this battle that seemed to occupy more column inches than the death of Western society. Why? I don't particularly like The X-Factor. It's poorly thought out TV. It's a karaoke competition and people fucking love it. More than that, however - I'm pissed off that I didn't think up of the idea myself. It seemed so obvious! Of course, I have the money and the record label to make it work. I just hadn't told anyone about it for fear of seeming smug.

Not only that, but the entire concept of the "race for the Christmas #1" was created by Simon Cowell. A publicity machine to ensure the inevitable victory of his prize-winning pop tartlet. How on Earth was any other group ever hoping to oust the nation's newly-bought puppy dog? Well, Rage did. And all they had to do was tell Chris Moyles to fuck off.

Why Rage? Well, yon chap who set up the Facebook campaign (something else to which I am particularly loathe, but we'll get onto that some other day) saw merit in their refrain "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."

But the punchline? Both acts are signed to Sony. Between RATM and Joe, they sold 950,000 singles. Sony wins. Big business wins. Your pointless little rebellion has come back to bite you in the arse, boys. Savour your little victory, because you've lost the war.

Upon reading this back to myself, it reads very much like something an X-Factor fangirl would have written. Maybe I'm just hiding something..

And I ate it, too

Wallowing in self-pity is liking eating too much cake. You just sit there, getting fatter, and no-one likes you because you took all the cake.

That sounded better in my head.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Allow me to indulge myself...

...with a segment of self-analysis. It's been quite some time since my last blog entry, I'm aware. Given that the 21st anniversary of my birth is fast approaching (news of my conception was allegedly greeted with my father shaking the pregnancy test and asking my mother if she was certain), I feel it necessary to see where I am in life at present. Why in blog form?

Because I'm a self-indulgent bastard, that's why.

Come on this journey with me, if you will;

- My name is Eric Richard William Fitzgerald, I'm a 20 year old Caucasian male and I have a family of two parents and one sister.

- My fears include failure, rejection and the impending zombie apocalypse.

- I am allergic to penicillin, tetracycline and cat hair. This makes prescribing antibiotics for any illness to which I may succumb quite difficult, I've been told (not the cat hair).

- My heart is in a thousand and one different fragments, not due to any great degree of heartbreak, but rather because I can't help but emotionally invest in people. Some people hold a piece of my heart and they have no idea who they are.

- I am a fourth year Journalism with a Language student but I have no idea if I'm every going to end up as a journalist.

- I both revel and loathe in being the youngest in my family.

- The concept of the family unit is highly important to me. If, for whatever reason, my own one ever became fragmented for a negative reason, I'd be unable to cope.

- Sometimes I feel that I am hamstrung by manners and courtesy. Other times I feel that I do not exhibit these qualities enough.

- I have an addictive personality. Witness my interest in rugby, soccer, computer games, cult television and certain bands. Thankfully this has not manifested itself as regards drugs or alcohol - yet.

- I simultaneously love and hate my job. There are some days where I feel so demoralised that I want to quit on the spot. But, then again, everyone feels like that.

- I love speaking in a different language.

- There is one point in my life that I feel, had I acted differently, my life would be much transformed today - in a good way. That feeling is starting to rise again in relation to something different.

- I haven't cried properly since I was 12.

Should I feel the need for any more self-analysis, this will be the space to watch. Thanks for your time.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The chaff

While I am aware that my sister was wed recently, I don't feel like writing a blog entry about it. Quite frankly, the followers of my blog don't know my family or my community well enough to have any emotional investment or sufficient knowledge of the references I will, well, reference for it to make the process worthwhile.

Let me just say, simply, that the whole day was perfect. Quite literally. Besides, I've ráiméised enough to all of you about it already.

Here's fate kicking you in the stones; way back when, I applied for a place in the Oifig na Gaeilge Scéim Cónaithe (the Irish language house). I wasn't accepted. Last week, I found a spot in Ranelagh, a grand little studio apartment that suits my limited needs just fine.

Two days spent in Dublin to bring the sordid process to an end. Following my return to Clonmel, I received a call on lunchtime. It was Siobhán from the Oifig telling me that someone had pulled out of the Scéim and she was offering me a place.

Having paid my deposit on the flat in Ranelagh, I couldn't take it. FML.

Word to the wise; don't drink brandy.

Maybe I'll post more regularly. Maybe I won't.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Help, I'm in a nutshell

Those of you who know me will be aware that I spent the large part of five months in Germany, beginning my stay there in March and bringing it to its inevitable conclusion towards the end of July. Those of you who don't know me won't give a fuck, and I assume that it will stay that way.

In what can be described only as the most amiable of moves, I settled into my new accommodation in Germany - primarily after reaching the summit of the vast mountain of bureaucratic bullshit which towered before me. Armed with Sherpas, a trusty pick axe and a can-do attitude, no form was too long, no opening hours too inconvenient, no queue too snaking to crush my spirit. OK, so I lie. I whined and moaned like a little bitch, but these things have a way of sorting themselves out.

Room 112 of Emil-Figge-Strasse 37 was a modest lodging. Sparsely furnished, decent kitchen, agreeable housemates (of whom I regrettably saw all too little) - all that was lacking was a television. Well, I was hardly going to bring my Playstation 3 all the way there and not make use of it, was I? Silly reader! (cue cries of "NERD!" and my attractiveness sliding down an ever-steepening slope)

Dortmund is a city that does not give off a good first impression. Having suffered its fair share of air raids during World War II, the city is mostly gray and industrial. It reeks of unemployment (the Ruhr area has one of the highest average unemployment percentages in all of the Bundesrepublik) and has little to offer tourists besides churches (it's dwarfed in that respect by neighbouring Cologne) and former Nazi prisons. The nightlife was agreeable, however, even if I did fall asleep on the train twice and once one discovered the bestest little kebab shop in the Ruhrgebiet, the city seemed a little bit brighter.

Neighbouring cities such as Cologne and Dusseldorf were a treat to visit, made all the easier by the fact that students in Nordrhein-Westphalia are afforded a ticket which allows them free use of public transport across the entire fucking Bundesland. Awesome. The German modes of public transport are punctual (mostly), clean (largely) and frequent (well, depending on the time of day.) It's incredibly easy to get around a country so large.

But what of the campus, I don't hear you ask? Yeah, exactly. Academic pursuits will only serve to bore, so it's best to leave them to a dark corner.

So many people, so little cyberspace. Czechs in trollies, French smoking fagsCheck Spelling, a Spanish girl named Macarena (I kid thee not), festival fun times with English, Americans and Portuguese - the list is endless. The one person worth elaborating upon is my travelling companion, Aisling. We left acquaintances and returned firm friends. Long may it so continue.

The best stories I've saved for personal contact. This is but the tip of the iceberg of my German excursion.

Perhaps I'll impart more, once the mood takes me.

Do not adjust your television set

We are back on the air.

Following a month of geographical upheaval, familial expansion and a crippling bout of blog envy, I feel like blogging again.

There's much to discuss and oh-so-much time to do it in.

So, what are we waiting for? Let's get cracking!

It's all in glorious Technicolour.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Think of it as a cognitive sneeze

If I could write something profound, witty, thought-provoking, well-written or just plain good, I would.

But alas, I can't.

All I have is a tiny headache that hasn't gone away and a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.

No idea why, mind.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the eye of the Hurricane

I'm slightly sunburnt, a bit knackered and very, very happy. Hurricane comes with strong recommendations, ladies and gentlemen. I saw Pixies live. I may now die happy.

Germans do festivals correctly. Entirely sanitary toilets, decent food for reasonable prices, one euro beer, friendly atmosphere, paying you to pick up after yourself - all combining to produce an unforgettable weekend.

Three days of music, four days of camping, lots and lots of drinking. The weather played its part, too, with the sun making a welcome apperance for most of the weekend. Scattered showers were just that, but nothing could possibly have dampened proceedings. I mean, come on, Pixies were playing.

Music-wise (and that's what a festival is about, after all, besides horrendous levels of drunkenness), Hurricane = win. Let me indulge myself by going into a day-by-day breakdown;


Having been tricked into not seeing them by Glasvegas (bastards), Katy Perry was the first act that I laid eyes upon at Hurricane. To use a very thinly-stretched metaphor, if I'd have kissed this girl, I wouldn't have liked it. Her show was dull, lifeless and flat, and it's hilarious to see her trying to be taken seriously as a "singer-songwriter" when all she is is yet another box on the pop conveyor belt. Still, everyone loves a drunken singalong to I Kissed A Girl.

Editors fell upon disinterested ears while I was divulging my hunger, but thereafter came the biggest surprise of the weekend. Let me explain my relationship with Franz Ferdinand. I find their albums boring and their live show equally so. Yet, in spite of this, they are a band I will give an infinite number of chances to. They are a band that I want to like, but cannot. All that changed on Friday. They did an awesome live show which, with drink admittedly taken on board, had me dancing, roaring and shouting along with the best of 'em. Fair play to you, Alex, I knew ye'd repay my faith.

From the beginning of one beautiful relationship to the sickly demise of another - I am officially over Kings of Leon. Never have I been so bored in all my life. I spent more time looking at my watch than watching the stage, but like that awful last date before both parties call it quits, I stuck it out. That's the last time they'll be seeing me (until the awkwardness ends and we can become friends again.)


Don't ask me how I ended up at Less Than Jake, but I did. I'm sorry, I really am. Blame the excitable Americans I was with. In a effort to redeem my musical soul, I sat through Blood Red Shoes and The Wombats, without really listening to either, though my opinion of the boys from Liverpool was changed slightly - if not dramatically. Then came the moment I'd been waiting for - but only after having to sit through an excruciating hour of The Mars Volta. Before I have any MV fans jump down my throat, please understand the situation I was in. I came to this festival solely for the band that were to follow them. They could have played the sweetest music known to man and I still would have paid them no heed. They were the wall between me and my goal. (Subsequently, I spoke to numerous MV fans who assured me that they had indeed played a cracking set.)

Then they came. Like some wonderful wave crashing over me.


They were fucking class. They played my three favourite Pixies songs (No. 13 Baby, Vamos, Gouge Away) and now I may die happy.

Is there any point in continuing a description of the weekend's events after this?

Alright, alright, fine.

I needed a rest after that, I really did. What followed was equally enjoyable. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds were easily the best act I saw over the course of the entire weekend. He's a incredible showman and the Tom Waits-esque way in which he creates whole worlds within his songs is something that I can only one day dream of emulating. And so to bed, contented.


What better way to begin one's Sunday than with just an ever-so-little bit of gypsy kings Gogol Bordello? Got me energised, anyways. Unfortunately, two events subsequently brought me back down; having regrettably overheard two songs from the God-awful Anti-Flag and making an ill-founded decision to sit through Lily Allen's set in its entirety. I'm not entirely against lil' Lilly herself - in fact, I quite like her deceptively offensive pop offerings - but the sound was desperate where I was standing, not to mention the fact that she seemed a little lost on the Main Stage. She did, however, do an outstanding version of Womanizer.

Not to worry. Eagles of Death Metal swooped in to sooth my woes (and my sunburn). I must say, I've never been rocked by a moustache as hard in my life. Fair play to Jesse Hughes, he's an excellent frontman and he had the crowd in rip-roaring form. Ladyhawke was a bit of a comedown, but she was still enjoyable. Shame she didn't have a bigger crowd, though.

Fettes Brot
? A German band that looks like your dad and his mates rapping? Hilarious. Good thing I only stuck around for one song. Nine Inch Nails were another massive surprise for me, namely because I never saw what others saw in them until then. They put on a great show. Shame it's their last year of touring. Friendly Fires closed out events with a nice, peppy bang. Delightful.

To sum it all up in three words?

Hurricane: fucking savage.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The coin

Yes, yes, I know, this should go on Bríosca Briste, but fuck it, I want people to see this one.

The coin

Spare change, madam?

Sir, some spare change? Please sir, just for a hostel for the night.

Just a few coppers sir?

God bless you, madam. God bless your kind heart. Look at it. Look at how it rolls around the rim. Heads, tails, heads, tails...

God bless nothing. There's a reason I've my hood pulled down over my face. If you saw my eyes, you'd scream. Run, call the police. He's feral, something's wrong. But you wouldn't even have the energy for that. If you looked into my eyes, you'd see the things I've seen. Unimaginable horrors. Children feeding on their parents. Monsters with gaping, toothy maws, devouring people who will never die. Charred skeletons still screaming, wailing, roaring to be put out of their misery. The only thing louder than their cries for help are the flames consuming them.

That was the easy part.

There was the other side. Countless numbers of souls deluded. Left to wander an eternal emptiness on their own. Calling out the names of loved ones, even though they know they'll never get a response. All they have is their memories, their emotions. Nothing to distract them. Forever, they will wander through the mist, lost, alone. They can do nothing to stop it. All the while it laughs. It looks on them and it laughs. Sometimes, in a moment of twisted lucidity, it will give them the briefest glimpse of what their heart desires, only to tear it away from them as soon as they see it. Digging deeper into the well of melancholy they sink into without drowning. People say the Devil is evil, but they've never met God.

How do I know all this?

No, I didn't sign any deal. I haven't been to Hell and back. I'm on the guestlist. I played for both teams. It's easier than you'd think. They don't mind who gets who. They have their own little pleasures in store for either one. Good and evil? Doesn't exist. Two sides of the same coin, if you ask me. No, no asking about it. I'm telling you. I've seen it first hand, sure. I watched people see their own hearts being ripped out of their chests and did up the paperwork afterwards. Likewise, I sat there, propping against the armrest, laughing there with it. But they were jealous lovers. They didn't like me playing the field. So both of them decided to have the last laugh on me. Branding me both as their slave, I was thrown out, into limbo, this waking life. It's just a testing ground, see who gets what. All we're living towards - or dying towards, rather - is just what way we get fucked over once we cross over. I once met a priest upstairs who couldn't stop crying once he found out. They get it the worst. They devote their lives wholeheartedly to it. Of course they're initially overjoyed to see their faith rewarded, but once they realise they've no-one to share it with, the gloss quickly comes off. As for the other part, no-one ever deserves what's coming to them. No-one.

So there we have it. Through one eye, I see the gray mist. Through the other, the red fury. That's why I haven't slept since I got here. That's why I don't know what it is to dream.

But when I open both together, I only see what I need to do.

This needs to end - and I'm the one that needs to do it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fat Frank, you charmer

In just under four days, I'm going to standing before an outdoor stage, probably soaking wet, waiting for Pixies to take to the stage for their second reunion, probably because Frank noticed that the bills were piling high and people weren't paying as much attention to his solo career as he would have liked.

It'll probably be terrible, namely because they all hate each other (well, Kim and Frank do) and they'll probably only play stuff from Trompe Le Monde, the one album I forgot to upload to my iPod.

But if it means I get to hear Gouge Away live, everything in my life up to this point will have been worth it.

I feel like a kid at Christmas time.

Seriously, it's all there. The stomach butterflies. The inability to sleep.


Rob McDonald

If you get any more handsome, I'm going to punch you in the face, sir.

In fact, there's a lot of my friends I'd like to say that too.

Don't you think you can slink down the back, Cunningham. You too risk the mighty fury of my envy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Schadenfreude comes in all shapes and sizes

I'm not going to force you

Following the lowest turnout in German history for the European parliament elections (a paltry 42.6% of the electorate), the suggestion has been raised that voting should be made compulsory in Germany with a €50 fine to be levelled on those who fail to exercise their democratic right.

In conjuction with this measure, it's been proposed to introduce a system whereby one can cast their vote over the internet, thus making the process a damn sight easier.

Which drags up the old arguement on whether or not voting should be compulsory.

Granted, in countries where it does or has existed, it's created a culture of voting. Turnouts in Belgium are regularly high, with around 90% of voters making sure their voices were heard during the recent European elections. Mind you, this is a country where they don't suffer a slap on the wrist if they fail to tick the box (or number the boxes according to preference, if you want to be pedantic).

Non-punitive compulsory voting has its benefits. It creates a culture of democratic participation and high turnouts eliminate any accusations that election results are not representative of the majority of the population. Can one argue that the results of most European elections in Eastern Europe, where, in some states, less than a third of the population bothered voting, are democratic?

Of course you can. The fundamental principle behind voting is that it is a civic right, not a civic duty. The beauty of it is that people have a choice. If that choice entails not going to vote at all, so be it.

If enforced compulsory voting is introduced in a country without a history of same, it's only going to anger the electorate, and an angry electorate makes reckless decisions. Mind you, an angry electorate can make reckless decisions in states without compulsory voting, too. Two British National Party (think the Nazis, only wearing suits) candidates elected as MEPs over the weekend, anyone?

Forcing people to do something they're used to having a choice over doesn't work, fact. People aren't going to make an informed political decision just because it'll cost them €50 if they fail to do so. Non-enforced compulsory voting, however, sends out the message that voting is encouraged, or "we want you to do it, and even though we don't like it when you don't, all we'll do is scowl. Promise."

Offer your opinions on the topic, if you want.

I'm not going to fine you if you don't.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What is and could have been

My mother told me something recently which I found quite sad.

Apparently, but for her hysterectomy, I would have probably had a younger sibling.

That's how they had it planned. Three kids. But the fates conspired against that plan.

I wonder what they would have been like? Would I have gotten on well with them? I always liked the idea of a younger sibling who looked up to me, someone I could be a role model for.

Or maybe they would have been an annoying brat. Hell, it would have been heavy, but they'd still have been my brother. Or sister, as the case may been.

But it wasn't.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

...and release

...and breath in...

Given that it's been a period of time since I posted, a few things have naturally landed upon my chest like cumbersome burdens. And, as is normally the procedure with burdens of such a nature, I wish to remove them from my midriff. That is, to say, I have a few things to get off my chest. Unwarranted verbal clutter, how are ya.

The Ryan report. The report which brought psychologists to tears. The report which finally lifted the lid on the endemic, widespread, accepted psychological, physical and sexual abuse went on in various institutions of care under the trusteeship of the Catholic Church.

What the fuck can you possibly say to it?

Apparently, Irish bloggers have described it as our nation's equivalent of the Holocaust. While I wouldn't necessarily go so far myself, the emotional earthquake it has triggered throughout the nation is one of whose tremors we will feel for some time to come. I think this gentleman's contribution sums it up perfectly. His name is Michael O'Brien, he is a former mayor of Clonmel, my own home town. Why I don't know him personally, I can never even begin to fathom his own personal emotional hell.

On a far more trivial note, and forgive me for following an issue of such severity with this trivial bullshit, but Duke Nukem Forever is finally cancelled, after a development time of, well, forever (12 years for you pendants out there). Once again, another gentleman has described this farcical situation in a much superior fashion to any attempt I would make to do so. Well done, 3D Realms, you gigantic wastes of reproductive product.

As utterly strange as this may seem, both situations have similarities. In both cases, certain groups were entrusted with large amounts of money and property with the provisio of providing a service for those who needed it. When the utter failure of both to deliver upon the tasks set to them was revealed, outrage ensued.

Please erase that last paragraph from your memories. I can't believe I just tried to compare the failed development of a fucking computer game to the decades-long abuse of the children of Ireland by those we revered and trusted most.

It's laughable.

So is the fact that we let such an atrocity that damaged so many for so long occur.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A new script is almost finished, children

After a year and a half of arse-scratching, Escape is nearly complete.

Cue wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

Guns don't kill people, paintball does (apparently)

In an incredibly misguided attempt to avoid a repeat of the Winnenden massacre, in which a 17 year old German teenager, Tim K, shot 15 victims in his school in southwestern Germany using a firearm he had stolen from his father, the German government has decided to draft legislation with a view to banning paintball and laser tag.

Yes, that's correct. Apparently, in the minds of the German legislature, nothing prepares a potential murderer like paintball.

Meanwhile, actual firearms get off relatively scot free.

"German media reported that lawmakers were also considering barring people under the age of 18 from shooting high-calibre guns at target practice and permitting police to conduct random checks at the homes of gun owners to ensure their weapons are under lock and key.

Other measures would include creating a digital database of firearms as well as biometric security systems to help ensure weapons are used by their rightful owners. In addition, lawmakers would introduce an amnesty for owners of illegal firearms if they turn them in to authorities, reports said."

Considering the existing age at which one can legally acquire a firearm in Germany is currently 14, one can't help but get the feeling that the stable door is being shut after the horse has bolted and shot 15 people.

It's also believed that German lawmakers want to avoid stepping on the toes of hobbyist marksmen. It's OK to ban games which simulate killing, but any pursuit in which one actually makes use of the potential instrument of murder is above board.

No wonder these people lost two world wars.

But Eric, you Herculean epitome of godly perfection, why are you calling for restrictions of firearm ownership, I hear you cry? Surely this goes against your libertarian political grounding?

Let me stop you there for a minute. Yes, I am being slightly hypocritical when I say that people shouldn't be allowed guns but should be allowed to inject whatever drug under the sun they wish to into their system.

But therein lies a key difference.

Through the ownership of guns, as a frighteningly large tally of cases have shown us in Germany and America, there is an inherent risk in those countries that private ownership of firearms is largely dangerous to the public at large. Suffice to say, the national tempermant of both nations does not suit the open private ownership laws in relation to firearms which are currently on the respective books.

Take Switzerland, for example. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it has one of the highest gun ownership per capita rates in Europe. I challenge you to present me with the last school or workplace shooting to have occured in Switzerland.

I'm no psychologist, so I'm not even going to attempt to explain what seems to set America and Germany apart from the rest of the world in this regard. In summation, however, I will say this - civil rights are only rights when they do not harm society at large. When they do, they stop being rights and, in some cases, become heavily regulated and controlled privileges.

Gun ownership should remain firmly in the latter.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The kind of kids I want

...will be small, and polite, and always well-dressed.

Nothing like their father was.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gig guide

Belatedly, here's a considered opinion on my time spent in the company of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bell X1 in Koln on Sunday May 3rd and Wednesday May 6th, respectively.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sunday May 3rd, Live Music Hall, Koln

Dull Life
Gold Lion
Black Tongue
Cheated Hearts
Heads Will Roll
Y Control
Maps (acoustic)

An odd setlist, I found. Given that they're promoting their third album, their setlist showed a heavy emphasis on Fever To Tell. I wasn't worried, though, given that both singles from the new offering, Zero and Heads Will Roll, sound terrible live. It's what you expect from the YYYs; Karen's dressed wonderfully, Nick's shredding some serious guitar and Brian is looking cold and sombre. Some low points, but the high points made up for it. Must try harder.

Bell X1, Wednesday May 6th, Blue Shell, Koln

How Your Heart Is Wired
Bad Skin Day
Next To You
The Ribs Of A Broken Umbrella
My First Born For A Song
One Stringed Harp
Eve, The Apple Of My Eye
The Great Defector
Rocky Took A Lover
I'll See Your Heart & I'll Raise You Mine
Blow Ins

No prizes for guessing what album they're pushing here. Even Paul admitted it, when he suggested that the audience "steal their second album from the internet, 'cos we'll never see it again." The setlist was symptomatic of the sad story that has become Bell X1. Cast adrift/purposefully split from their record label (depending on whose side of the story you believe), they probably won't see a penny from future sales of their first three albums. Pity, really, considering that the new album, Blue Lights On The Runway, is by far and away the weakest output from the threesome (Brian's gone to soundtrack pastures, kid).

Old fan favourites like Alphabet Soup and Snakes & Snakes were jettisoned in favour of musical masturbation outputs like Amelia and How Your Heart Is Wired, songs which could have easily had their length halved. Such is to be expected when the guiding hand of a record label isn't slapping your hands away from the keyboard. Having said that, the gig was small and intimate, which put a gloss on some of the worse songs. Not enough, though, to dispell the growing sense of dread within me that Bell X1 will never produce a better record than Music In Mouth, something from which they seem keen to distance themselves given their recent label troubles. Understandable, but sad all the same.

Oh, Duke Special supported too.

He was magnificent. 'Nuff said.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Trekkin' on through

While waiting for the S-Bahn to depart, I absent-mindedly perused a copy of Glamour, which promised "the 18 questions that will bring you happiness." My curiosity was piqued.

Question the first: which of my friends do you like best and why?

Rest assured, ladies, that if he answers Katja because of her sense of humour and her love of a good party, do not be put out. He does not want her over you, he loves you and merely likes this part of Katja's personality.

Last time I turn to a women's fashion magazine for life-changing advice.

In other news, I went to see Star Trek (in English, thank Christ). It's a highly enjoyable romp (this time, that word does actually suit the film in question) but good Lord, it will make hardcore Trekkies puke up their rectal passages.

Abrams literally throws canon into a black hole and consequences be damned - and I applaud him.

How was he ever going to satisfy the series' loyal adherents by sticking to canon? I'm sure the vast majority of them dropped their Cheetos in horror when his name was announced as the next captain of the good ship Enterprise, so whatever he came up with, they were always going to be on the internet within minutes of the advanced previews registering their disgust with the world.

So, JJ Abrams being the innovative soul he is, took his own spin on the series and plotted his own course, free from the shackles of history, and the franchise will ultimately be all the better for it.

I'd like to think of it as a respectful move. He's admitting his own inability to adhere to the soul of what's already being established, so he wants to do things his way, without desecrating what's already been established.

Kirk is still brash, ingenious and compassionate, Spock is still the logical, clinical straight man, Scotty is Simon Pegg (brilliant!), Bones is all snarls, sarcasm and "dammit Jim, I'm an engineer, not a physicist!", Chekov gets cheap laughs for his accent, Sulu is quiet and determined and Ulhura is hot. He hasn't tampered with the basics. He's just taken the best of the series, dispensed with the chaff and fashioned his own kick-ass starship. I've got four words for this new take on a timeless classic;

Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

These are the worst of days, but they build you up for the best of times

I'm still numb from the events of Saturday.

All I wanted was for a hole to open up upon Hill 16 and swallow me up as Brian O'Driscoll cantered towards the line for Leinster's third try, the nail in the coffin of Munster's so-called "performance."

You put a brave face on it. You shake Leinster hands, congratulate them for their team's better performance and wish the all the best in the final.

But I sure as hell didn't feel like doing that when the final whistle went. I sank to my knees on the Hill and just felt nothing. It was hard medicine to swallow, but Leinster fans had been here before. Back in 2006, when Munster demolished them 30-6 on a glorious day in Lansdowne Road en route to winning their first Heineken Cup. They, too, were gracious that day, despite the unimaginable, gut-wrenching pain they must have felt to see their team dismantled so comprehensively.

And so it happened last Saturday, too. With a similar set-up. One team vastly over-hyped, expected to do the business without breaking a sweat. The other side given a snowball's chance in hell. Out comes the snowball as a raging blizzard, and the conditions don't favour the favourites. They're subsequently demolished, the underdogs engage in raucous celebrations and go on to win the fucking thing.

Leinster have yet to put the final piece in that particular puzzle, but I hope they do. It would cap a tremendous season for Irish rugby, with the national team having won the Grand Slam and Munster having won the Magner's League.

I'm going to have to re-educate every nerve in my body, but come the Heineken Cup final, I'm hoping for a bit of Blue Magic.

If they do it, fair play to them. They've been waiting long enough for their day in the sun.

But come the beginning of next season, by God, my mouth will be watering at the prospect of revenge.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bloody bloggers

Are bloggers journalists?

I'm not making some egotistical claim to purveyance of the truth, far from it. My blog is an exercise in venting, and if people choose to look at it, so be it.

There are, however, numerous so-called "citizen journalists", inevitably driven by one political agenda or another to put their opinions on display for the edification of others. The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post, even IndyMedia if you're looking for an example closer to home - all of them see themselves as heroic rebels against the "established order" and its vested interests.

That's not to say that their finger-wagging and eagerness to hop aboard the good ship Moral Highground are entirely unfounded aspirations. Yes, of course, mainstream media are riddled with vested interests. Journalists self-censor for fear of their jobs or offending their own political leanings. Objectivity has merely become an excercise into how best to hide one's own personal bias towards a story. Some do so successfully (see The Irish Times), some not so (see every tabloid this side of eternity).

This is where blogs fail fundamentally. Opinion is blogging and blogging is opinion. Bloggers don't make their opinions a secret. It's a spice they gladly add to their concoction.

But is it really a failure? It can be argued that this is what people have come to expect of news, or rather, what they want of their news sources; an opinion which supports their own, or a counter-arguement that they can tut over disapprovingly and remark at what rubbish it is. We don't see news as something to challenge us anymore. We take it as a comfort blanket to re-inforce our own opinions. We're happy in our information provincialism. You'll never catch a liberal reading The Daily Mail, nor will you see the local landlord perusing his copy of The Guardian as he engages on the next leg of his hunt for the local darkies.

So is objectivity the sole characteristic that sets apart journalists and bloggers? Or has it come to a point where it is little more than snobbery on behalf of journalists and indignation on behalf of bloggers?

Sure, aren't we all journalists nowadays?

Clearing out the clutter

Rather than clog this up with my vainglorious attempts at creative writing, I've transferred them to a new blog, Bríosca Briste. You may now breathe a sigh of relief that it's stored away where no-one can find it. As one does with toxic waste.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Germans are a funny sort

Germans can find my letterbox only when they want me to pay them money, it seems.

My European Health Insurance Card has been lost to the ages and my Yeah Yeah Yeahs ticket nearly suffered a similar fate, but for the efforts of one stalwart postman, who managed not to leave the ticket in my letterbox, but rather left me a little blue slip, informing me that the letter containing the prized ticket was mine to have - if I came to pick it up in the post office.

It seems like a set-up which could descend into a cavalcade of hilarious misadventures, but the truth is far more banal. I showed up, signed for the ticket (hence why they couldn't just deliver it to me the old-fashioned way) and I was on my merry way. Karen O in Koln, here I come.

In reference to my opening sentence, that was a misadventure far more whimsical and, well, misadventurous than my Yeah Yeah Yeahs ticket debacle. Cast our minds back to my first week here, nay, my first proper night's sessioning here. Ten shots of an unquantifiable liquid later, and the next thing I know, I'm awake outside the door of my flat, sans clés, impossibly hungover.

One drunken conversation/beration from my Hausmeister later, I've a new set of keys, with the ominous warning that "this is the last key you will get" delivered in broken English. You know, so it sounds far more sinister.

Bed is good, so Eric fall into bed. Eric get knock on door. Keys in hand of nice lady. Bugger.

A week later, the one item of post I've been able to receive successfully since I got here arrives. It's a bill, for €220. Seems they don't take too kindly to losing keys 'round these parts. Alas, this isn't as dramatic as it sounds. I presented the "first they were lost and now they are found" keys to the relevant authorities, and my financial obligation to them was stricken from the record.


there's a great black wave in the middle of the sea for me

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What I did on my summer holidays

Well, I may as well call my ten-day old soujourn back to Irish shores
just that,considering it's the only holidays of any description I'll
get. Bloody German education system...

Ten days of catching up, drinking up, toying, tinkering, talking and
tittering in Clonmel, Dublin, Limerick and beyond. Actually, sorry,
that's all three of them. Didn't seem as impressive on their own,

Clonmel brought me back to my usual comforts; decent pints,
poker and four people in one bed. Cheers for shoving me via
Leyla out of the bed, Hally. Last time I put your drunken ass
to bed. Never mind, I took your money a few days later.
Home cooking is always a great draw. Bacon and chicken?
Surely you can't be serious? I am serious, and don't call her
Shirley. She's Anne, she's my mother and she's lovely.

My fractured relationship with Dublin continues. Tuesday
and Thursday she was a bad, bad bitch. But I have my new
laptop and my iPod is fixed, so even in her misery, she's a
goddess. Don't kiss me now sweetheart, I'll see you soon.
Saturday night was a joy. Annexed into wonderful new
company and all that. Apparently I'm writing to my local
TD after that night, Orna. At least, that's what my
fogged-up memories tell me.

Limerick, she was short and sweet, but she was beautiful.
It may have been men against boys, and so it shall be in the
first warm weekend of May when we show them what a real
All-Ireland semi-final looks like, but we can't all have as much
fun as Fiona. Steady, now.

I'm back now. Thanks for having me. I'll see you all again soon,
no doubt.

It was lovely.

when I'm with her, I'm the richest man in the town

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fuck you Australia

Forgive me for gloating, but I feel a need to do so in this instance.

The ELVs are dead.

At least, the vast majority of the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) trialled by rugby's governing body, the International Rugby Board (IRB) this year have been deemed a complete failure, and rightly so.

These botched experiments combined to transform the game of rugby union into a grotesque spectacle of kick and chase, one which disgusted hardcored fans and turned off potential newcomers. Why some were admittedly successful, as I shall go on to discuss later, the vast majority failed immesurably and are rightly being consigned to history's scrapyard.

Chief among these atrocities was the attempted introduction of the law whereby the rolling maul could be pulled down so long as an effort was made to do so between the hips and the shoulders of the opposition, an action previously unthinkable under the previous laws of the game. Firstly, this law removed one of the great spectacles of the game, the rolling maul, whereby forwards could truly exert their power, suck in opposition defenders and free up space for backs to pull off attacking moves. Secondly, this variation was never properly policed. Opposition defenders constantly sought to nullify the maul by pulling down the opposition via the legs or head of the opposition. It was doomed to failure and rejection from the very beginning and has rightfully been jettisoned.

The lineout was another area of the game which the powers that be decided to tamper with unnecessarily. By removing the restrictions on numbers in the lineout, whereby both teams originally were required to have an equal number of players present, they removed the role of the lineout as an effective contest. Defending teams could move players out to the backline to nullfiy an opposition attack or pack the lineout to make contesting opposition ball an easier task. The original excuse was that the lineout would become an easier task for referees. As a referee myself, I can safely say that the lineout was never a difficult area of the game to adjudicate. Yet another folly which the IRB has come to realise, thankfully.

Those recommendations among the ELVs which will be implemented are for the best, chief among them being the introduction of a 5m offside line at the scrum. This allows for backlines from both sides to pull off setpiece moves to great effect and allows both number eights a wonderfully open platform of attack. While I would have some reservations about the acceptance of the rule which dictates that a kick directly into touch from a pass back into the 22m area will result in a lineout from where the ball was kicked, I do not see it as a rule which will fundamentally influence the game for the worst.

So, there you have it. Rugby will not be changed for the worst. Fuck you, Australia.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Naked truths

If a Bolton St lecturer had known that his caricature was going to expose the dark side of the Fianna Fail government, I'm sure he would have done this a lot sooner.

The farcical situation which is "Cowengate" just highlights the powers that be in Dail Eireann for what they truly are; a sad, deluded bunch of individuals, desperately clutching the political straws. Not only that, but it's highlighted Brian Cowen's darker political side, something which will no doubt have many of his critics tilting their chairs with smug "I told you so" grins plastered across their faces.

This isn't the first time Brian Cowen has shown his dictatorial streak. If you recall the Lisbon Treaty debacle, the whip was firmly cracked within the Party, and hell would have no fury like the punishment which would be dished out to those who did not toe the Party line. It's moves like these which have seen divisions emerge in Cabinet and a strong sense of resentment towards An Taoiseach fester in the minds of many prominent politicians in power. Unfortunately, Brian Cowen's holding all the cards in the deck, and what he says, goes - for now.

But back to Cowengate. Not only is this a gross misappropriation of Garda resources, in a time where confidence in the ability of our peacekeepers is low and the ghost of the Troubles threatens to rear its ugly head again, but it's an appalling affront to free speech and the right to freedom of expression. A prankster puts some saucy caricatures of An Taoiseach in a prominent national gallery. RTE thinks that this will be a bit of a giggle and includes it as a bit of fluff at the end of one of their news broadcasts. The artist contacts The Ray D'Arcy Show on Today FM anonymously and says "it was me what did it."

Cue howling indignation not seen since the days of Section 31. Cue RTE having to issue a grovelling apology. Cue Gardai issuing a warrant for access to the emails of The Ray D'Arcy Show to discover the identity of the artist. Cue the DPP preparing a file on the same individual, a one Conor Casby, a lecturer in DIT Bolton St, on charges of indeceny, incitement to hatred and criminal damage. Apparently, it's illegal to stick something to a wall these days. Not only that, it's also illegal to satirise politicians. I suspect the ERU are speeding towards Martyn Turner's house, demanding that he issue a public apology for all of his caricatures in The Irish Times lest he face the firing squad.

This will never come before the courts, but the very fact that the government has made a mountain out of the proverbial molehill has made us the laughing stock of the world's media. We're being compared to North Korea and even The Huffington Post, an influential American blog, is guffawing away. It's also setting a dangerous precedent. The government has shown a dangerous desire to limit the rights of free speech and freedom of expression when it suits them. Even opposition TDs are prevented from raising the issue in the Dail by the Ceann Comhairle.

Apparently, it's OK to strip us of our rights when the Taoiseach is stripped of his clothes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Proof, if ever it was needed...

...that Sinn Fein are, and always shall be, murdering scum.

Ex-SF councillor charged with murder

Armed police at Lisburn Magistrates Court yesterday, where a 17-year-old youth appeared charged with the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in Co Armagh earlier this month. Photograph: Paul Faith/PAArmed police at Lisburn Magistrates Court yesterday, where a 17-year-old youth appeared charged with the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in Co Armagh earlier this month. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA

A former Sinn Féin councillor appeared in court today charged with murdering a Northern Ireland policeman.

Brendan McConville (37), also denies possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life following the shooting dead of PC Stephen Carroll earlier this month.

The dissident republican Continuity IRA claimed responsibility following the death in Craigavon, Co Armagh.

There was a heavy security presence at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court, with riot police standing guard and security checkpoints in the city.

Mr McConville served on Craigavon Borough Council from 1993 to 1997.

He was charged with possessing an AKM assault rifle and 26 rounds of ammunition but denies shooting Mr Carroll.

There was no application for bail and he was remanded in custody until April 3rd at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court.

He has been in custody for 15 days.

(swiped from The Irish Times)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bloody drama queens

The results of last night's DIT Drama Awards (as texted by David Gavigan);

All Right On The Night: The Collection

Raising The Bar:
Ill Met By Moonlight

Rookie of the Year:
Orla Kinsella

Best Vibe:
John May & Orla Kinsella, Two

Best Ensemble:
Ill Met By Moonlight

Best Original Writing:
Eric Fitzgerald, Writer's Bloc

Best Comedic Performance:
Maurice Flynn, Ill Met By Moonlight

Best Costume
: Two

Best Set Design:
Ill Met By Moonlight

Best Lighting & Sound:
Emmet O'Grady, Ill Met By Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress:
Phillipa Carson, The Collection

Best Supporting Actor:
Maurice Flynn, Ill Met By Moonlight

Best Actress:
Orla Kinsella, Two

Best Actor:
John May, Two

Best Director:
Emmet O'Grady, Ill Met By Moonlight

Best Production:

Sure, only raging I wasn't there.

EDIT: Wank, we didn't actually win Best Lighting & Sound. Still, fair play to Emmet all the same. He's lovely.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tax this, you cunts

Anger does not beget coherence, so forgive me if this descends into a rant.

Since this whole sick debacle began, it's highlighted the hypocritical and reactionary nature of a Fianna Fail government like no other event in the history of the Irish state. A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but fuck it, I'm in that sort of humour today.

Fees, or some forms of payment, for third-level education are being re-introduced, as of 2010.

That's right, kids. The government who has maintained a steadfast commitment to investing in education and making sure it flourishes, as it's our only way out of the economic downturn, have flipped the giant bird to students up and down the country by promising to slap extortionate fees upon them for their bald faced cheek in seeking education. Well done, Biffo and co. Well done on succeeding in releasing your grip on any hope of this country ever pulling itself out of the quagmire that you led us into.

Education leads us to the taxation which will finance further education. Graduates naturally gravitate towards higher paying jobs, thus paying higher taxes which feed back into the education system. Fees or whatever fancy moniker you wish to paint upon them are nothing more than a barrier to education. They feed social segregation and push away the classes which have benefitted most from free education. It's counter-productive in the extreme and it's a move that will see the government reaping what they sow - a country which will soon be blighted by a massive brain drain in case of a graduate tax or no graduates at all in the case of fees.

The duty of the government is to fulfill the will of the people, to make the decisions requested by the electorate. In this move, they have ignored the wishes of a sizable proportion of the same electorate.

This will come back to haunt you, Batt. You know it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Last night

I had a dream. It was vivid. It was unsettling. It was heavily based on the format of Fallout 3, oddly enough (though not that oddly, if you know me well enough).

I was in a house. Well, a house of sorts. It was like a community bundled into one building too small to hold it all. It was under the stewardship of a tyrannical dictator.

One part of it involved a friend of mine desperately begging me for money to save them from an abusive relationship. I woke up thereafter, but the image of them with profound sadness and desperation etched across their face has been burned into my mind's eye ever since.

I can't think of it without developing a horrible, sinking feeling in my stomach.

But it's only a dream.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Ramble on

New post for the first time in a while via another source. Germany looms like a lighthouse. It's two hours to my flight. There's a lot I'm going to miss about home;

- Guinness
- Bacon and cabbage (fuck me, I'm a gigantic culchie)
- O
- Everyone and anyone
- The wonderfully black Irish sense of humour
- Terrible Irish TV (to be soon replaced by terrible German TV)
- Munster matches
- Almerciful sessions

I'd continue, but this list is beginning to seem remarkably clichéd. Auf wiedersehen.

By the way, pet - I'm not gone forever and ever. The aerodynamism is working out swell, though.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We are experiencing some technical issues

So, the aul laptop's banjaxed. It's refusing to turn itself on (well, it will power up, but it has no degree of functionality), so updates won't be as frequent as they have been.

I'm sure you're all gutted.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Something for the weekend

Back in Musgrave Park this evening for the first time in four months. It's evenings like these that remind me of the little things I love about rugby.

A Magners League fixture doesn't have the glamour, or even the players, of a Heineken Cup match, but it's the bread and butter league. If the European Cup is Sunday roast, the Magners League is a sandwich - it's nothing spectacular, but it's nourishing all the same.

It's the gentle sledging of opposition players, whether it's the random noisemaking so the opposing hooker can't hear the lineout call, or whether it's something altogether more specialised, like Paul Warwick's London Irish hoo-haw or reminding Chris Paterson of how he contributed greatly to Munster's win in Kingsholm during his spell at Gloucester in the 2007/08 Heineken Cup quarter final. Chanting "Gloucester, Gloucester" might seem a bit out of place in a small rugby ground in Cork, but Chris knows where our thoughts lie.

It's the drive down, where teamsheets are discussed, fixtures are debated, decisions are questions and possibilities are mooted. It's the sneaky pint before and the few after (not for the driver, obviously). It's slapping your hands together in the cold, commenting that it's "a great night for rugby" and pitying the poor fool who'll bear the brunt of the first tackle.

Fuck you Tom Humphries. I love rugby.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Resident tensions

The (accidental) racist undertones in Resident Evil 5 haven't gone away, you know.

The original argument lay in early footage which saw Chris Redfield, the white protagonist, popping caps into the asses of manjini, this game's version of Resident Evil 4's "intelligent zombies", the ganados. The unease was palpable - white man travels to Africa and kills black population. A population which are infected with a virus which destroys all their sense of reason and motivates them to rip his fucking throat out. Unfortunately, diplomacy wasn't a viable option.

But the concerns still remained, and rightly so. In an effort to appease the game's detractors, developers Capcom introduced Chris' partner, Sheva Alomar, herself of African origin. The introduction of Sheva is more than an olive branch, however - it's a wonderful game mechanic which breathes some new life into the franchise. Rob's argued to me that her AI is poor - she frequently gets in the way of your line of fire - but unlike other games, you genuinely feel part of a team. You help each other out in tight spots, you combine to solve puzzles - she's genuinely helpful and doesn't need her hand held, as is the case in other games which have tried to implement this system.

Sheva's introduction hasn't placated people entirely, though. Can she been seen as a symbol of women standing up to male oppressors in what is a typically patriarchal society? Or am I reading too much into this? Probably the latter.

Whatever the case, I'm willing to look beyond the game's heavily fabricated supposed political leanings. No doubt fire and brimstone will be stoked up upon its release by a number of amateur Keith Vazes who will never so much as see a screenshot thereof. Shame, really - it'll probably be a cracking game.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Striking while the Anvil is hot

Anvil! The Story of Anvil is a film which reaffirms your faith in optimism. A story of the little band that could and tried their hardest, it's a wonderful tale of faith and love. Comparisons with This Is Spinal Tap are both apt and faulty - while Spinal Tap was all about rock's egos, excesses and pomp, Anvil! is about two guys who just wanted to be in a band - for forty years of their lives.

It really is a emotional rollercoaster. There are moments of profound sadness, like the gig in Romania in a venue which can hold 10,000, but only 147 show up. It can be poignant, like the frequent freak-outs on behalf of singer Lips, who usually finishes with expressing his deep-felt love for his bandmate and friend Robb Reiner.

The Spinal Tap allusions are healthily embraced - a shot of an amp being turned all the way up to 11 being a case in point. But it's a much more profound film than Spinal Tap, with some serious statements to make on commitment and friendship. These boys are going nowhere, but they don't care. They've just wanted to be in a band since they were 14, so now they're living the dream.

I won't continue, for fear I spoil some of the film's better moments. It's a film you need to see, though. It's probably the most uplifting experience I've had since Slumdog Millionaire. Anvil will rock long into the decades, and so will this film.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Party politics

Having spent the vast majority of my day in the company of USI and other students' union officials at the annual Lobby of the Oireachtas, as well as passing a portion of same at the CONSOLE Snowdrop Launch, I have come to the following conclusions;

- Ned O'Keeffe isn't exactly the most progressive of politicians.

- Mattie McGrath is surprisingly considerate.

- One can, in fact, subsist on a diet of free coffee, tea and sandwiches.

- Ed Byrne is a lot shorter than he looks on TV. Top man, though.

- Not a lot of TDs or Senators know about the Australian system of student loans' failure.

- David Norris is pro fees. Didn't see that one coming (hwuh hwuh hwuh.)

- Even USI officers get tired.

- Without the moon landing, we wouldn't have Teflon.

- At one point, NASA employed one quarter of the US workforce.

- Mackey, your father's the Fianna Fáil head honcho in Boolavogue!

End transmission.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I take it all back

Germans are lovely, lovely people.

I do have on-campus accomodation in Dortmund. Hooray!

It's only €250 a month. Huzzah!

All is well with the world once again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Big German bastards

Won't send me any information about accomodation. *grumble*

Bastards. I thought Germans were organised. *mutter*

I'm glad I'm going over there with a shaved head...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Locke down

Following on from Saturday's post, after tonight's episode of Lost, there's only one clear winner.

John Locke, you fucking hero.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday night fever

One drink becomes eight becomes a couch conversation about whether John Locke or Jack Shephard is the better man.

I love Saturday nights.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love is.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, or more importantly, my mother's birthday. She'll be 48, following on from my father's 50th birthday eleven days previous. Tomorrow will also be a day where Hallmark tell us that love is expensive presents, red roses, fancy arse meals and copious degrees of wine.

My parents' relationship has taught me a lot about love, and it's the source from which I ultimately draw my definition thereof. My parents married when my mother was 19 and my father 21. They went on to establish their own business, have two children and achieve financial and emotional stability. The picture ain't always rosy, and they row a helluva lot, but I think if you're not fighting, then you're doing something wrong.

Lovers tear the heads off one another because they care. No relationship can exist solely on smooches and adoring coos. Conflict presents challenges, find faults, but most importantly, rectifies failings. It's the sealant that fixes the cracks in the walls before the whole house comes tumbling down. Admittedly, in a lot of relationships, conflict can take on all too central a role and bring about their demise. But I firmly believe that it's an entirely natural, nay, necessary element of any pairing.

That's what I admire most about my parents. No matter how they interact or speak to one another, it's unquestionable that they love each other unconditionably. I'm lucky to have grown up with such stability, and it's something I've taken for granted.

Mam, Dad. I love ye. Keep it up.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cheers, darlin'


We'll get it in the neck because many DIT students couldn't get into The Button Factory tonight despite holding valid SHAG Ball tickets.

Show up on fucking time next time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gone for a long walk on a short pier

A friend and muse may potentially moving to another city for a period of months.

I'm delighted for them, because they need to get away from here. Dublin can be a canopy of delights, but it's also a destructive city in far too many ways. A sojourn away from some of the pernicious and poisonous perspectives unfairly imposing themselves on this friend's life will do them the power of good.

At least, I hope so.

I'd love to see them come back from their time refreshed and reinvigorated. They deserve it, really. Too much shit has happened to them over the past while, so they're badly in need of a break.

Go for it and enjoy yourself. I know one of the things they're worried about, and that will still be there for them when they come back. Besides, there's only a bus journey between them.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Safe journey home

Today, I received an sad piece of news. Jangles rang me earlier;

"Well man, do you remember Jim Daly?"

"I do, what about him?"

"He passed on last week."

Jim was a man who I met once, maybe twice, in my life. He wrote one of the most beautiful plays I've ever had the privilege of watching, The Land of Stuff, a production which had a profound influence on my own stylistic leanings as a director and a writer. Listen was basically my attempt at The Land of Stuff, a minimalist tale of people lost in a world where the only crumbs of comfort they found were each other. I'll never come close to writing anything as moving or provocative as The Land of Stuff, but damn it, I'll try.

While I had no real personal connection with him, I did enjoy his company in the brief, fleeting moments when I spoke with him. I'm somewhat regretful that I never got to speak with him when I found the confidence to start writing, because I would have loved to have discussed some ideas with him.

There are plenty of people who will mourn the passing of Jim Daly, all in their own unique ways. I will be among them. While I won't shed any tears, part of me will sink into myself, into a space populated by thoughts of what might have been. But another part of me will swell with pride, safe in the knowledge that I was blessed to have met a creative genius, even if but for a brief period. That little time spent in his company has had more profound an impact than he will ever know.

RIP Jim. T'was lovely to have met you.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Paying the price

Batt O'Keeffe, Minister for Education, is considering jettisoning plans to re-introduce third level tuition fees and instead wants to focus his attentions on the implementation of a so-called "graduate tax." This would see third level graduates pay a levy on their income for a set number of years once they reached a certain income threshold, thus offsetting the cost incurred by the state of putting them through their education in the first place.

Seems reasonable enough, doesn't it?

Well, we're going to have to accept it, because the argument on fees is lost, quite simply. Protests, like the Dublin colleges one on October 22 and the all-Ireland one on February 4, are all well and good, but we needed to follow it up with further action. We did not maintain a significant media presence. We did not lobby the Minister sufficiently. We have failed, and only we are to blame for that.

The simple reality remains is that this is an argument that we would never have won. One way or another, some form of taxation on education was going to be introduced. The state coffers are simply too bare to allow for any further investment in third level education - something which the government is committed to - without some little bit of give on our behalf. The above proposal seems to be the fairest way to go about it.

But it's also the easiest one to subvert. Will it bring about a brain drain, where thousands of graduates flee the country every year to avoid Batt's punitive measures? Or do we make the levy small enough and over a longer number of years so it doesn't pack as big of an emotional and financial punch? That's why tuition fees were never a viable option. Families would never have accepted one-off, annual payments of €6,000 or more. It's simply too large a financial commitment to face. So tax the students, the ones who have directly benefited from the education, in a fair and affordable manner. The more I think about it, the more reasonable a proposal it seems.

Opponents to the system will play the "brain drain" card over and over. But I really can't see that happening. Make it a manageable enough payment and people will put up with it.

They won't really have a choice, in fairness.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The internet, I love you, but you're dicking me around


Why do you persist in pushing me around in recent times?

There was once a glorious period, wherein one could view whatever TV show they so wished. Then, the major companies who pumped the money into these programmes started to cop that we were getting their shit for free, so they threw a hissy fit.

Now, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find the latest episode of Lost.

Oh, wait. Here we are.

Sorry, false ranting alarm.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Snow day

Little worlds die on my shoulders. It's a Monday night's journey back to the house, but not as we know it, Jim.

Take a five-hour bus journey that normally takes a mere three. An inconvenience on most days, but today, when all I had waiting for me was a flexible work commitment, it was glorious. A gorgeous blanket that hugs the countryside like a lost friend. One which flits away unless it keeps crying. Imagine a girlfriend who hasn't seen you in ages, but every time you meet, it might be your last. That's what it's like when it snows in Ireland.

Then you remember why you got away from her in the first place. It's cold. It's unfeeling. It's wet. All it wants to do is weep, and weep some more. But you tolerate it, because you might never feel this way again.

Eventually, you revel in it. You want to throw down whatever it is you have thrown across your shoulders and dance through it until you slip on the slush, fall on your arse and burst out laughing. You don't care how many times it melts on your cheeks, launching wave after wave of attack, because you're too immersed in the moment to care. You watch countless films where characters frolic in the snow, and you wish you could do it too. Maybe I'm just impressionable.

Then it fades, and you regret it, knowing you could have done so much more. But not right now. Enjoy the moment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ignorance is bliss

Sometimes I feel like Brentano.

Then, I feel terrible for every thinking such thoughts.

But sometimes, the world presents too damn convincing a case for me to think otherwise.

Take for example a seemingly innocuous, yet damning, action.

The Oxegen '09 headliners have been announced. They are Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol and The Killers.

The Killers have now headlined twice in three years. Kings of Leon have headlined twice in three years. Snow Patrol have headlined twice in three years. A fantastic display of imagination by MCD. Yet people will still flock to buy tickets.

Give me Electric Picnic any day. Maybe I'll see Kasper and Annerl there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slumdog millionaires?

I left Slumdog Millionaire tonight on an emotional high; it's a smashing feelgood hit. But this brought me down to earth a bit;

"Rubina Ali (who played Latika as a child) was paid £500 for a year’s work and Azharuddin Ismail (who played Salim as a child) was paid £1,700. The child actors continue to live in makeshift shacks in the slums of Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai. According to the UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, Ismail's home has been demolished by the local authorities and he now sleeps under a sheet of plastic tarpaulin with his father, who suffers from tuberculosis."

Director Danny Boyle has insisted that trust funds were set up for both children and that their educations were paid for. It's not the first bit of criticism the film, which is tipped to take this year's Best Picture gong at the Oscar, has garnered. Critics in India have accused it of demonising Hindus, purveying "poverty porn" and grossly generalising life in India on the whole.

I'd still recommend you see it, and take from it what you will. I found it fascinating and utterly uplifting, a story which is fundamentally based on human relationships and rises beyond the political (even though some scenes are indirectly political in nature.)

Still, it seems that not everyone involved with Slumdog has been made a millionaire.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tom Traubert's Blues

This might be considered a lazy excuse for a blog, but it's a song which captures perfectly everything great about Tom Waits. It's his blend of storytelling, songwriting and world creation at its most potent. Sometimes I wish I inhabited the dystopian little hamlets of the darker recesses of Master Waits' mind. At least there, you'd know where you stand.

Wasted and wounded, it ain't what the moon did
I got what I paid for now
See you tomorrow, hey Frank can I borrow
A couple of bucks from you?
To go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

I'm an innocent victim of a blinded alley
And I'm tired of all these soldiers here
No one speaks English, and everything's broken
And my Stacys are soaking wet
To go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

Now the dogs are barking
And the taxi cab's parking
A lot they can do for me
I begged you to stab me
You tore my shirt open
And I'm down on my knees tonight
Old Bushmills I staggered
You buried the dagger
In your silhouette window light
To go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

Now I've lost my Saint Christopher
Now that I've kissed her
And the one-armed bandit knows
And the maverick Chinaman, and the cold blooded signs
And the girls down by the strip tease shows, go
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

No, I don't want your sympathy
The fugitives say
That the streets aren't for dreaming now
Manslaughter dragnets and the ghosts that sell memories
They want a piece of the action anyhow
Go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

And you can ask any sailor
And the keys from the jailor
And the old men in wheelchairs know
That Matilda's the defendant, she killed about a hundred
And she follows wherever you may go
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll go waltzing Matilda with me

And it's a battered old suitcase
To a hotel someplace
And a wound that will never heal
No prima donna, the perfume is on an
Old shirt that is stained
With blood and whiskey
And goodnight to the street sweepers
the night watchmen flame keepers
And goodnight, Matilda, too

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Talkin' 'bout my generation

The kids of the sixties are fondly referred to as the radicals, or the flower power generations, with defining cultural epochs like Woodstock giving them material for rose-tinted nostalgia.

The kids of the nineties are Generation X, who grew up with Kurt Cobain, NIN and Sonic Youth. The rich tapestry that was their musical playground was outshone only by their glaring cynicism towards anything and everything.

Our generation, however, will more than likely be characterised by the way we've taken to social networking sites like the proverbial ducks to water. I'm not criticising this for one bit. In fact, I think that sites like Bebo and Facebook have brought back the lost art of conversation, although not without a few mutations along the way.

First there was email. Then there was texting. Now, there's Bebo. The amount of different avenues open to our generation for communication with our peers makes us the envy of our elders. In a paradoxical manner, we've returned to the old tight-knit village mentality of our past - we all know what the other person is doing. The phenomenon of "Bebo-stalking" has seen to that.

Not only has online social networking opening up new avenues for communication, it's also given us new ways to break it down. Simple actions like forgetting to "give love", dumping someone as your "other half" and deleting someone from your friends list can have repercussions far beyond the seemingly innocuous initial action. But I'm exaggerating this aspect somewhat - no one's died as a result of being poked on Facebook (yet).

What is far more disturbing, however, is how these technological marvels can be manipulated for perverse purposes. The creation of fake profiles or leaving anonymous, abusive comments is one of the most prevalent and potent forms of cyber-bullying, and there's precious little ways to stop it. It's up to the hosts of these sites to be vigilant and crack down on any such behaviour. They seem to be taking a step in the right direction - most such sites have included a "report abuse" function, so fair-minded, peaceful posters can point the finger of blame at bullies and miscreants.

In years to come, we'll be seen as the generation who revolutionised communication. Think of that next time you're putting a hit out on someone on Mafia Wars.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Family values

When a serious crime such as incest is governed by a law which has not been updated since 1908, you know something's wrong with your country's legal system. In Ireland, incest is a crime punishable with a life sentence - but only if you're a man. Women get off with seven years, as happened with a recent case in Monaghan where a woman forced her fourteen-year old son to have sex with her while her other children lived in hunger and squalor.

The facts of the case are sickening in themselves, but what's more vomit-inducing is that the state were aware of this woman's abhorrent level of care towards her children eight years ago, but failed to take any action on the grounds that she was being supported by "a right-wing Catholic group," who would have probably assisted her with an injuction against any order issued by the State to remove her children from her care.

You heard correctly. The State were afraid to stand up to a minority group who would be laughed into obscurity by the media and the public.

I'm speechless (for once) and I really don't know what to say on this one. There's not a lot that needs saying, really.

(In)actions speak louder than words.

On another little aside, I noticed a letter to the editor in The Irish Examiner, wherein a reader railed against those who criticised her local bishop for his perceived inaction in handling clerical sex abuse cases in his diocese. The woman went on to criticise groups like One In Four for focusing on such acts exclusively (her words, not mine), while other acts of child abuse, such as teaching our kids sex education in schools, were going on unabridged. I'm outta here. The inmates are clearly running the asylum.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The little robot that could

Last night I watched a film which I'm thoroughly sickened wasn't nominated at this year's Oscars for Best Picture - Wall-E.

Having watched the first ten minutes as a form of procrastination in Tunney's Den of Time Wasting (the video feed was out of sync with the sound, which led to a frustratingly early end to proceedings), I was intrigued by the prospect of the film, so I was encouraged to rent it last night when I had precious little else to do. I've never regretted a decision less.

It's not just that the quality of the CGI is breathtaking, or that the environments created are stunning. The characters are intensely likeable and the unlikely romantic story at the film's heart is entirely believable. It's also a film that appeals to all ages - the youngest of children will be enraptured by the colours and the visual setpieces, adults will chew over the food for thought that is the ecological message at the film's heart. But it's the fact that the film works on so many levels which makes it one of, if not the best, films to have been released in 2008.

I was reading some inane trivia about Wall-E (as is my wont with films I watch) and I was amazed by the production process. The team behind the film watched old Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films every lunchtime for a year and a half to capture the visual comedy which shines throughout the film. A human character does not engage in dialogue for 39 minutes. The first half of the film is merely a visual and emotional feast - Wall-E does not need to communicate to us his perceptions and feelings because the filmmakers make us acutely aware of them through various cues. It's an incredible achievement that a film so sparse on dialogue could be nominated for Best Original Screenplay at this year's Oscars.

It's one of the few films which has successfully transcended the traditional prejudices and barriers which cage in animated films and has stood up and been acknowledged in the minds of many "serious" film critics. The only demographic who disliked it were American conservatives, and their loathing thereof was mainly driven by the political slap in the face that Wall-E represented to them.

It rails against the unchained greed of big business and the callous environmental contempt displayed by such companies. It's an ecological wake-up call far more potent that An Inconvenient Truth and makes far more startling observations on the gluttony of humanity than Super Size Me and one which will appeal to a far wider audience than either of those two. Kids don't want to be the fat guy who writhes on his back like a turtle after he's knocked out of his hover-chair and adults will recoil in horror at the hypnotic effects the overdose of technology and advertising has on the passengers of Axiom.

But all of this social commentary is merely a backdrop to the love story which tugs at your heartstrings from beginning to end. Even though you can see the happy ending coming from a mile off (it's a Disney film, come on!), you still fear the worst when times get tough for Wall-E and Eve. It's storytelling at its most seductive.

Evidently, though, its charms were somewhat lost on the ladies and gentlemen of the Academy. The Oscar for Best Animated Picture is already in the bag, but hopefully it'll make the most of the small mercy it has been offered by picking up Best Original Screenplay*. It's the least it deserves.

*Even with this in mind, I still want In Bruges to win. It's Martin McDonagh, like. It's Irish!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Partial impartiality

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Míchael Martin has responded to Barack Obama's recent moves to bring an end to the abhorrence of Guantanamo Bay by saying that, "“Ireland has consistently called for the closure of Guantanamo and the bringing to trial or release of detainees held there."

Funny that, considering the Fianna Fáil government, of which he is a part, didn't seem to have a problem with Shannon Airport being used for extraordinary rendition flights en route to Gitmo.

Then again, Ireland's military policy has always been a bit funny. It's the neutrality one which cracks me up every time. We don't pick sides? We don't offer help? Get real, people. Since the very moment it was enacted, Ireland's neutrality policy was rendered null and void by the actions of the government of the day. de Valera's move to implement neutrality was partly motivated by logic and reason, partly so by blind nationalistic zeal. It was a two fingers to the British, one which inevitably cost him political standing with Churchill's government.

Then again, we were a small island and a fledgling nation. We lacked the military capacity to take any sort of a stand, and the threat of invasion was real, if unfeasible. Hitler's Operation Green was seen as a back door into Britain, but that was scuppered by the fly in the ointment that was the RAF. Only for the military might and resilience of our near neighbours, we were buggered. Mind you, the Luftwaffe still managed an air strike on Dublin. Mistook us Belfast mein Arsch - we were being warned. Such a curious position we were in - the British and the Germans were complaining about our neutrality, but for entirely different reasons.

But even with this in mind, we still gave assistance to the Allies. Supplies, weather reports, favourable treatment - we were neutral in name only. We were every bit as complicit in the Allied war effort as the Allies themselves. Yet publicly, Churchill and Dev fought their little fight, and even with Dev's claim that a small little island which had withstood tyranny for centuries could stand alone, we would not have been able to make that claim only for the presence of our alleged oppressors. Geography allowed us to keep up the charade, not will or courage.

Fianna Fáil are a party which don't seem to take any lessons from history. True to form, they repeated the mistakes of their history by allowing Bush's government to use Shannon as a refueling spot for extraordinary rendition flights and troop deposits, all the while beating the neutrality drum. It's a buzzword that the public seem to have picked up on, too. Every European treaty ever sent our way, from Maastricht to Lisbon, will allegedly "compromise our neutrality." Bullshit. Our neutrality was ruined from its inception.

The best thing we could ever do is renounce this ridiculous sham we call neutrality and declare ourselves complicit in the wills of the West. We support Palestine. We are favourable towards America and Britain. Let's call a spade a spade, people. Besides, how bad could things possibly be without it?

We're too small to be considered of any strategical importance by an "enemy". We have no technology or manpower worth sending to fight in a war (though we do make surprisingly good peacekeepers. Probably because we just offer innumerate cups of tea.) To put it simply, we'd be the kids who'd be picked last on the team. But at the moment, we're just sitting on the sidelines, sulking, secretly longing to be chosen, but all the while declaring our total disinterest in proceedings.

Neutrality is unachievable, so let's stop trying to achieve it. Let's just be honest about ourselves.