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.