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'

Yay!

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

Internet!

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.