Mistletoe and a whine

Posted: December 20, 2009 in me, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

May aswell nail my red & white colours to the mast here: I love Christmas. It’s just that time of year where things just seem to slow up – not in the shopping sense but…

My mother instilled the Christmas appreciation in me. At the moment, the house in Galway most likely has a million Xmas trinkets cluttering up the porch, snow everywhere, the annual decorations, the table centre piece, the CD playing. And it’s great. I only have the best memories of Christmas from my childhood. There are a few outstanding ones but the one that has stuck with me is cycling up and down our street at 5am on my brand new BMX with a plastic AK47 in my hand and my uncle shining a huge maglight on me so I could see where I was going and whom I was about to rip apart with my high-powered assault rifle. Memories..

But to make things straightforward, here’s a taster of the best (and worst) things about Xmas.

  • The wind-up at work. You can feel Xmas oozing into the office as the tinsel pops up all over the place, people who normally don’t smile begin to crack wee grins and workmates start asking when others are going home for the holidays/is the tree up/how much brandy in the morning is too much/why is everyone not wearing the elf costume to the office like they were told to/did you eat my sandwiches and so on.
  • Town is mental. Proper mental. Not just ‘oo-er what be going on here then?’ or a little crowded – there is a palpable sense of immense danger in every shop and on every street. The roof of TK Maxx has clearly been removed and a million people have been dropped into it to try and find the cheapest Ralph Lauren pyjama bottoms or Ted Baker socks. That Butler’s chocolate shop that does the hot choc drinks? It’s got a queue of people out the fucking door, like a soup kitchen in the Mission in San Francisco. Penney’s is a war-zone. Schuh? Don’t bother. The only options in town are to duck into a pub as soon as you arrive to ‘shop’ and start guzzling hooch. Actually guzzle it too; the drunker you are the better. And watch in horror as the barman ACTUALLY rolls his eyes when you ask for either a hot port or hot whiskey. You don’t like making them, do you not? Sorry to complicate your drink-making job by having you do something other than fill a pint glass with piss-poor imported beer or knock the lid of an Easter European beer for which you are charging me 5 euros and 80 fucking cents! You do know Budvar costs about 3 cent in Prague, yeah? Oh you don’t make the prices – you just serve the beer. Right. I will leave actually yes, because you sir are the rudest barman ever. Good day. I have worked in bars too, before anyone starts.
  • The presents. Christ. Here’s where the booze will lead you astray. You arrive home with a bag full of shit you kind of wanted for yourself and a bag of random crap you blearily snaffled in nick-nack shops in the hope that whoever they are for will come to you in a few days. Those dolly pegs will be great for Dad, won’t they? And those Santa musical socks? The dog can have them; he loves weird chimes and Santa’s red, glowing eyeballs…
  • The regimented approach your mother has to Xmas. The TV must not distract from family time when you arrive home. The Xmas placemats may be 20 years old but they are Xmas. The Xmas CD is on a loop. You end up feeling like a suspected terrorist stuck in a weird Guantanamo-style Xmas internment camp. You are awoken to the clatter of dishes every morning. Everything has that shiny Xmas glow which is great at night but looks weird in the morning. Your orange boiler suit is chafing and they’ve taken away your Qur’an. Dean Martin is on all the time. As is Cliff Richard.(I love all this really)
  • Secret Santa at work. Now this year a few of us are doing it. Firstly, a few are trying to guess who got who but crucially, not in a fun way. In a ‘I KNOW who you got’ way. Another would like it to remain a secret forever so he can buy the cheapest present possible. These people have told me this. They also read this blog on occasion and the great thing is, they can have no argument for their anti-Christmas attitudes. I’ll make them pay. Somehow. Where’s my AK47?
  • Catching up. Catching up while drunk. Being in Galway pubs I’m never in anymore because I’m not home much.
  • The 11am booze fog. What’s that? A Paddy and red lemonade at 11am? You scoundrel.
  • The Snooze (you know it)
  • The Poop (you don’t want to talk about it)
  • The weird hangover of 8 tonnes of food and a gallon of red wine. Not remembering what you and your mother were chatting about til 5am..
  • There’s  more but that’ll do for the moment.

Happy Xmas everyone.

Thanks to events in the real world, I have been seriously lacking in effort with regard to these pages. Interviews, busy days, weddings, funerals. It’s all been going down. I suppose all bloggers are constantly looking at life as ‘content’ for their little online diary and for those who blog specifically on music or film, this stuff can spew forth at regular intervals.

The problems begin when one is not exactly a blogger of anything specific but rather someone who blogs on random odds and ends. And then when it becomes clear that one cannot blog on certain things (i.e. ALOT of things) without ‘giving the game away’, people reading who probably shouldn’t know certain things, that kind of piffle….forgive my cryptic ramble please. And apologies for the self-referential claptrap and for apologising for not blogging in the first place which I know can grate…erk….

So enough. I am in love with Chickatees again. Ah yes, Chickatees. How many do you think you actually swallow when you pop open a bag? Fuck all, I’d wager. They’re all in your teeth. For the diet-crazy amongst you, perhaps this heralds a new form of food non-ingestion therapy. I mean, you don’t ingest Chickatees really.You’ll eat a bag in a minute or two and then pick them all out of your teeth. The key could be to resist the urge to swallow this congealed ball of mulchy Chickatee and plop it in the bin. However, this is more difficult than you think; it tastes bloody great.

AND you can buy them in monstrous bags of 30 or 40 for a few squid too. That, combined with Spar meatballs (amazing) and some Pot Noodles – sure you’re essentially a thrifty Gordon Ramsay producing instant classics upon demand. True your salt intake would probably rival that of a large, floating whale gulping down huge waves by the hour but anyhoo.

I’m also currently sporting a rather fetching ‘tache as you may or may not know. Tis for Movember (donate here) but I can’t see myself getting rid of this badboy too quickly. The amount of action I am getting down darkened alleyways on Camden Street is outrageous. I’m raking it in. The binmen are mad for a bit of ‘tache loving. And I love the feel of their cold black jackets, the smell of Carrolls on their breath…ahhh yes…binmen….

Been busy enough beavering away for a few online publications you are probably familiar with and incoming is State mag’s top 20 albums of the decade…or is it top 100…or is it best albums of the decade in no particular order but with a non-specified number cap…jesus. Anyway, I know I’ve left Smog/Bill Callahan off one of these reeeeally difficult lists and I am going to make it up to him by doing my next post about him and most likely about A River Ain’t Too Much To Love, I think.

Also, Christmas is coming and I fucking love Christmas so, to quote a great man, BABY I’M BACK. I think I’m feeling motivated by R’n’B super-lech, R.Kelly’s banging new single

Actually banging. And without the use of contraception it would seem. Shuddering yet?

Pause for thought

Posted: October 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

One of my uncles died a few nights ago.

He was my mother’s brother, estranged, and someone with whom I had no connection, having met him only once when I was very young. It’s fair to say my mother didn’t have a huge relationship with him either – much of that side of the family are that peculiar and uniquely Irish manner of estranged, a condition borne of fractured, secretive conversations, generation gaps, parental divide and the deafening silence of too little said in too many years.

I tend to blame the Church and its powerful meddling influence on Irish life in the 50s (and after that period too) for this ‘oddness’ that we, as a nation, are so used to. It’s to blame for creating a large number of emotionally stunted, bullied, oppressed, tragic people, many of whom went on to be wonderful husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, but many of whom also went on to be bastards and beasts of the foulest kind. But the Church is not solely responsible and, for whatever reasons, some people just end up…well…odd.

Whatever the circumstances, my mother has lost a brother and that gives pause for thought.

Alien vs Predator

Posted: October 8, 2009 in me
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s odd to come home and find everything exactly the way it was when I left.

The other half has been gone to the US since Sunday and so I have a 3-bedroom house all to myself for a few weeks. This leads to all sorts of problems, of course, but there are advantages.

Looking after the dog, by myself, is a distinct problem. He’s needy. I am too, but there’s not much he can do to appease me, if I’m honest. The neighbours, who are there all day, come and take him every so often, but in the evenings it’s a face-off.

“Dinner”, his eyes say. “Give me your dinner”

“I bloody fed you 2 minutes ago”, I snap.

“That wasn’t enough. I want more. I especially want that curry you are eating, not that stale Ryvita you just threw on the floor to try and distract me”, his eyes say.

“Jesus, I’m only in the door half an hour – let me relax”, I plead (yes, with the dog).

“Oh ho. Relax is it? ENTERTAIN ME”, his eyes say.

chirpa

This can go on for hours.

grass widow

If the whole no-fi/lo-fi thing is a bit too ‘P4k‘ for you then look away now. I’m a big fan. All the bad recording, tinny sound, hard-to-decipher vocals and homemade t-shirts/album covers/everything makes me feel like I’m back in school listening to Bleach again.
There seems to be very few bands from the Captured Tracks/ Slumberland/ Fat Possum stables that are shit these days. Every second week, there’s some lo-fi gem on tour in Europe and, more often than not, Foggy Notions or Skinny Wolves get them upstairs in Whelan’s where they put on brief, wonderful shows and then sell their own t-shirts.We get this with our local bands so it’s great to get it from bands you may only have ever read about on myspace.

As contrived/trendy/uninteresting as some may decry this lo-fi scene as, I love being in a small venue with the band close enough to touch and having them stand beside you in the crowd to check out the support. I love the noisy melodies. I love the brevity. I love the ramshackle performances and the fact that many of them have never been to Europe before. I love the drums.

There’s a rawness to bands like Vivian Girls/Wavves/Times New Viking/Real Estate et al that remains undiluted by hype and combines the nostalgic chill of twee with the pelvic snarl of teenage.

It’s fast, fun and plentiful.

What’s to snipe at? Nowt, that’s what.

Curmudgeons begone.

So now, say hello to Grass Widow, made up of Lillian, Raven and Hannah. They bring you harmonies and fuzz.
Born from the remnants of Shitstorm (the band indie-chick du jour Frankie Rose left to join Vivian Girls, whom she subsequently left to join Crystal Stilts, whom she has now ditched to form Frankie and the Outs…), Grass Widow have a self-titled 12″ LP and a 12″ EP knocking around at the moment.
Have a peep at Captured Tracks for the EP and Make A Mess for the LP.
Here they are covering Black Hole by The Urinals, a major influence in the lo-fi scene.

Grass Widow – Black Hole

And here’s one from their self-titled album.

Grass Widow – To Where

nightmare-on-elm

If there’s a blogeur equivalent of ‘doing a Pink at the VMAs’ and metaphorically dangling myself upside down from a buff acrobat, banging away on the keys of a keyboard thing to impress you, the agog reader, then this is it.

Shiny and new like the Ceann Comhairle’s expensed, and expensive,  Pringle jocks (no little holeage in the front to pee out of for FULL support and maximum expense…haven’t you ever had a pair?) this is There Will Be Blog 2.0…for the moment anyway.

I’m not sure what the advantages to the switch might be but I fancy a change and if it does go tits up I’ll scurry back over to Blogger like a crab seeking a latrine after a hot curry. I am reliably informed that ‘WordPress is better’ and ‘Blogger is balls’ by ‘culturally relevant internets people’ (I’ll stop doing that now).

I guess if I ever wanted to bag a heap of nominations for blog posts and consistency, well, I’ve blown it now.

If you are going/gone to the Jesus Lizard in the Button Factory then you are a lucky motherfucker – I just can’t stretch to it. At least they melted my face at Primavera this year and will most likely melt, or completely kick off, your face tonight. A tasty night of tunes awaits this Friday though when Nodzzz arrive in Whelans (with the wonderful So Cow in support), fuzzing up the night, and over at Twisted Pepper there’s a Richter Collective Singles night with Not Squares, Jogging and a DJ set from Jape himself. Bi-location will be a necessity.

Me? I’m trying to settle into a working week that now consists of four days and a smaller paypacket so the recession has landed home at last. The dog even bit me the other day. He must have felt I wasn’t quite bummed-out enough. It felt like the equivalent of your girlfriend inadvertently insulting you in front of your mates. It just wasn’t expected. Luckily he’s a Shih Tzu so my lengthy recovery took about 5 minutes of looking at my ‘wound’  and looking at him and looking at it and looking around the room. Thanks Chirpa. Thanks for hurting our friendship with your gnashers.

Anyway, the laptop’s back so it’s time to catch up on all things music, film, TV, blog and otherwise.


I awoke early on Sunday morning to an empty right-side of the bed and the thumping of little hairy feet on the stairs.
It appears that the newly-installed Playstation 3 has taken my other half from me and has worn her out so much with its relentless gaming-power that she has passed out on the couch from exhaustion.
This must be how it feels to be a human in the future of the Terminator franchise – helpless before the power of the machines.
The dog doesn’t really give a shit about the complex mechanics of our human relationship – or how a computer gaming console can come between people so rapidly – so he proceeds with his usual game of ‘staring in your face like an idiot’.
I continuously inform him of the futility of this contest and how there’ll never be a clear winner….he just keeps staring, throwing in the old ‘cock the head sideways’ routine every minute or so.
Sigh.
We’ve been living in Ballsbridge for 4 or 5 months now and I’ve grown to really like it, after my initial scepticism.
Yes, there are hordes of rugger-loving, Crok-sporting, nice-but-dim D4 posho types around but the pub up the road is a cracker, the neighbours are lovely and it’s really nice to be in a leafy suburb ten minutes from town.
Somehow though, I had, up until now, not made it here for breakfast (NOT brunch, NEVER brunch) in all these months.
Sinead (I’ll link to her myspace as she recently informed me she intends to begin myspace blogging again soon) has been to this Juniors place a few times, a trip of about 1 minute from our front door, and has come back espousing the delights of the finely cooked food and ‘Galway-esque’, i.e. cramped, design.
But those times have been with her friends and I don’t want to crash her girl time. y’know?
That said, last time she went down with a friend of hers, some drunken young men bought them both Mimosas and then sought deep and meaningful relationship advice so maybe I should have made the trek before now, if only in a supervisory capacity.
We sat inside, as all the outside seating was filled with the beautiful people.
I’m pretty sure I actually saw two pairs of oversized sunglasses eating breakfast at one stage.
The giant Prada ones seemed to be shoving devilled eggs into its lenses.
Weird.
I had the ‘Breakfast of Champions’, which was absolutely sublime, consisting of a giant, succulent Cumberland sausage, streaky-yet-meaty bacon, a rosti, a two-yolked fried egg, a small slice of thick toast, not-from-a-can beans made with tomatoes and proper beans, black & white pudding (something I would never normally entertain) and a massive mushroom and tomato double act, both remaining half-eaten at the end, thanks to a near-full-to-capacity belly.
Sinead opted for a New York steak (thick and charred), eggs with Hollandaise sauce and some deliciously small, roasted potato chunks.
I often judge eateries by their coffee and this coffee was delicious – fresh, frothy and strong as an ox. Even the orange juice was freshly squeezed.
As you can probably see if you have a gander at the menu, it wasn’t particularly cheap but as a treat at the weekend, it’s well worth it.
As we were paying the bill, the waitress/cashier admired Sinead’s beautiful dress and then asked me about my t-shirt.
“It’s an Animal Collective t-shirt”, I said.
“What’s that?”, she said.
“A band”
“Oh right. Well I think Irish men don’t usually make much of an effort dressing so you’re doing ok actually”
Personally I think the t-shirt is a little too ‘Ivan Lendl in the 80s’ with its purple/lime green/white combo but I like it…and so did she, apparently.
If you fancy a visit to Ballsbridge, and someone to admire your pretty ropey t-shirt, then you could do a lot worse than giving Juniors a go.


Things started strangely.
As I settled into my seat (as best a 6′ 1″ manchild can ‘settle’ into an airline seat), something wasn’t quite right.
A quick browse of the food and drink laminate showed sandwiches for 4 euro, bottled water for 1 euro and beer for 1.50…my eyes seemed to lack a certain burning sensation…a distinct lack of sensory-overload thanks to relentless blue-and-yellow plastic hideousness and advertisements for ‘baggies’ of vodka and rum.
“That air steward-person doesn’t look like a Transylvanian post-op transsexual”, I thought to myself. “And I can still feel my legs below the knees.”
I was on a Tunisian airline, you see, but Ryanair was etched into my mind’s eye.
We were on the way to Yasmine Hammamet, a Tunisian coastal resort in its infancy. The idea of a resort holiday brought up images of drunken 18-year old Thomas Cook reps vomiting in each other’s handbags whilst having brief, unprotected sex on the beach with swarthy Ahmed, the lifeguard/fruit salesman/salamander vendor.
Luckily I had left my handbag at home.
The girlf and I really needed a break and a holiday of poolside boozing and beach side lolling was just the ticket.
The Diar Lemdina hotel offered the perfect deal: the room was a two-storey job with 3 bathrooms and two bedrooms, all of which I used in rotation and never limiting myself to their specific function.
The pool was a long 10-second stumble from the room’s door and the period between said door and falling headfirst into the pool, when I was absolutely beerless, was a nightmare.
Luckily, there was always a drinks-delivery youth waiting in the wings to take care of me, almost in that Remains Of The Day, Anthony Hopkins way.
I was Emma Thompson and little Mohammed was my silent protector and provider without ever really admitting it to me.
The first few days were a bit of a culture shock with the haggling nature of the nearby market, the Medina – I spent a half hour negotiating the price of a magic carpet with one tradesman only to discover it was a rug with little-to-no magic capabilities.
With the Medina right next door to the hotel, we were through it every night, dodging Arabic beckoning and cries of ‘Cheaper than Asda’ or ‘Have a butchers’ but it was something for which you really needed to be in a mentally strong state to cope and if you have never experienced this kind of thing, you are hereby warned.
The routine quickly became: get up, hit the pool, have lunch, have a beer, hit the beach, have beers, go on a jet ski, avoid paying 45 Dinar for 3 pieces of fruit, avoid buying a turtle/salamander/frog, have dinner and have beers in the fading sun.
Bliss.
Then we booked a two-day Sahara trip.
My Irish skin said ‘no’ but my fingers reached for the cash anyway and on the Thursday morning at 6am, having spent 4 days living the lives of particularly complainy lizards with excellent communication skills and Dunnes flip-flops, we packed off to the desert.
It took in many aspects including a gripping 4×4 trip to the Atlas Mountains, a horse-and-cart journey to a fruit plantation in the middle of nowhere, an oasis, camel-riding in the Sahara, nearly catching the sunrise in the desert, salt-mines and the Troglodyte caves where all the Star Wars Tatooine scenes were shot.
It was truly wonderful, one of the more weird parts of the trip being the visit to a Southern Tunisian couple, in their respective 70s and 80s, who actually lived in one of the cave houses, having reared eight children there.
As I stood there in awe of their achievement in such an unforgiving environment, an English girl bulldozed into their ‘bedroom’ bellowing ‘They ain’t goh now telllllleeee’.
Least of their problems, love.
Unusually, given my hyper-cynical disposition (and considering I was a tourist on a touristy tour) I was genuinely moved by the fact that in the corner of this cave house, an ancient woman was hand-grinding corn with a stone mill, collecting a few Dinar from the browsing tourists.
The old husband just sat quietly across from her, slowly baking in the 38-degree heat in his hole-in-the-ground house and yet they seemed content, nodding and smiling at the curious horde in front of them.
I’ll never complain about my phone reception again.
It helped that our guide – a wizened prune of a man called Eddie with a hilariously crap line in jokes and a genuine affection for this part of Tunisia, where he was originally from – was a real pro, always showing us what to do, where to move, how to deal with the culturally unfamiliar aspects of the tour.
Toward the end of the 1300-kilometre round-trip he did seem to be verging on ‘mentally delicate’ but I’m sure he’s ok now. Ok or still asleep. Or dead.
He even brought bread for the hole-in-the-ground family’s donkey.
We made it back to the resort hotel after two days, drained and fulfilled, set for one more slap-up meal, a little hookah pipe, some Boukha and bed.
The next day was time to fly, just as the week had done.
I should have bought a salamander.

March of the people

Posted: June 7, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Watching Werner Herzog’s South Pole documentary, Encounters at the End of the World, is an exceptionally humbling experience.
Herzog sets out his stall early in the film, telling us that he was not interested in making a movie about ‘fluffy’ penguins and instead he takes his tiny crew to McMurdo Station, the American headquarters, and a town-of-sorts in the Antarctic.
In and around this area, he encounters a group of people working in a variety of disciplines – plumber, driver, biologist, volcanologist – and tries to discover how and why they have ended up here, at the ‘bottom of the world’.
Herzog willfully seizes on the eccentricities of many of these people and manages to create a film that is beautiful, both in its visual representation of an unusual part of the planet and in its portrayal of the fragility of humanity and how, ultimately, we are all just a blip on this planet with extinction an inevitability, just like the dinosaurs before us.
Nature will take care of us sooner or later.
We are no more special than the single cell organisms that are scraped from the ocean floor by one 50s science fiction film enthusiast and scientist who celebrates the discovery of three new species in a single dive by jamming with a co-worker on top of their shed in the middle of the snow, their noisy blues echoing across the white plains.
Personally, I find this prognosis refreshing and Herzog certainly doesn’t want it to be taken as bad news. As always, he sees the beauty in human existence, in their stories and thoughts and ideas and lives and he sees the eventual demise of our species as just another step in the world’s history..and future.
Why do we deserve anything special because we are a little more intellectually advanced than most animals?
Isn’t it wonderful to imagine that everything we have ever created, both hideous and sublime, will someday be gone, probably through our own doing, and the world could be once more left to the most basic creatures, scurrying and foraging on the ocean bed, only interested in the next meal.
The earth would have a clean slate again and it is just a shame that Herzog will not be there to make a documentary about that.
I can imagine his monotonous voice, just audible over helicopter-shot footage of a desolate, silent planet:
“Theees eees de plenet nowww. Chust ez eet begenn. Wiss nossing ett all exsseptt ameebazzz and plennnt liiiiife….’

Primavera/Barcelona pics

Posted: June 4, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

EDIT: Check out my review over at Drop-D