Monday, July 09, 2007


Walking along the other day I was stopped by an old woman pushing one of those God-awful, plastic, checkered wheelies that seem to be all the rage with the geriatrics this side of the river. Well, the fashionable geriatrics at least. The not-so-fashionable ones still carry their plastic Lidl bags, with the handles tied together for maximum chic of course. I feel I must point out that my use of the terms 'fashionable' and 'chic' has been very loose indeed.
She stopped me anyhow. Rusty wheels grinding to a halt. A plastic Lidl bag poking out of the trolley, proving that some things never really do change.
'Spare some change for a cup o' tea 'luv?' she asks me.

I usually try to walk past beggars. Unfortunately, I don't usually succeed. It's this Goddamn conscience of mine; it really does rear its head at the most inopportune of moments. Usually when I'm being pestered by beggars. The term 'beggars' may not be very politically correct, but it is the truth. Even though I really do prefer not to use the word. Not because I feel it's wrong, but simply because I would rather not say it. I think I would rather live in a world where the situation would never arise wherein I would have to face, and subsequently re-live, such an encounter. Is that unbelievably ignorant and snobbish of me? It's certainly idealistic and naive. I'm not ignorant, and I'm not a snob. Ask anyone. Well, anyone who matters. The truth is that I am tired of people pestering me for money on every sidewalk in this city. It really has become so tiresome. Not that it was ever entertaining mind you. I don't think anyone has ever found being pestered for money to be an entertainment in itself. 'Ha Ha! That's hilarious! Honey, you gotta hear this guy. Ha Ha. Go on, ask her for a Euro! You'll love this. Go on! Say something "beggarly".' It's demeaning. That perhaps is my biggest problem with the people who stop you for money on the street. Perhaps if they did a dance, or sang a song, or even recited a poem. The proverbial 'singing for your supper' is oh so much more dignified than the scattergun approach most beggars employ. At least then, the whole ordeal may feel slightly more exclusive. That is, as a beggar, you're only asking for money from the select few of those who consider what you're doing to be worthy of payment.

'Spare some change for a cup o' tea luv?' I almost kept going, but the fact that it was an old woman made me stop. That, and the fact that I wanted to know just who these people were that thought it appropriate to ask a stranger for money. Indeed, just who were these people that needed money for a cup of tea? Furthermore, I wanted to know why the increasing majority of these people are also carrying bags of shopping with them when they stop you? Apparently, a cup of tea is more expensive than the packet of toilet paper sticking out of the Lidl bag tucked into the red-checkered wheelie. Well, in fairness, it probably is. And so, I turned to her and attempted to find out what may have happened in her life to reduce her to this state. Knowing I didn't have much time I decided to focus on what I was really wondering. Where were her children? Did they know she was on the streets casually asking passers-by for change? Was she receiving a pension? Considering the fact that Ireland does offer a reasonable pension to its senior citizens, I found it hard to believe that there could be a reason for the situation I was faced with. I didn't get very satisfactory answers. Perhaps she was actually an eccentric, fabulously rich old lady who decided to dress down and sport a wheelie for the hell of it. Perhaps. I doubt it. In truth she probably left with the couple of euro I gave her held tight in the palm of her hand and headed back to her empty home pulling her Lidl toilet paper filled wheelie firmly after her. Another day another dollar. Another day another beggar. Another day another problem facing our society. Maybe next time I'll tell you about the illegal Romanian women and their children that harass people as they board the bus. Funnily enough, they also seem to be a fan of Lidl toilet paper. Even more strangely, they seem to think that people who get the bus have change to spare. Darlings, there's a reason people take the bus, and as much as we as a society may try to fool ourselves, it has nothing to do with the environment.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mannikin Review

A recent review of 'Mannikin' that I wrote for last months edition of a Cork magazine:

When picking a band to review each month, it’s tempting to look over the seas for inspiration. Like the locals who never bother sightseeing in their hometown, there is a tendency to overlook the talent that’s flourishing right under your nose. Indeed, this month I, like most people faced with the prospect of writing about music, was all set to review yet another independent band from the States. Happily for us all, I decided not to. Instead, I looked to West Cork and to a band which, although relatively unknown on the national front, is hitting it big in Cork.

Mannikin is a West Cork based band that recently won a Red FM contest to play support to The Cooper Temple Clause next month in Cyprus Avenue. For Mannikin this is more than just a chance to support a class act, it’s a chance for them to take their own material and capture Cork with it. With such quality music and lyrics, it shouldn’t be hard to do.

They made their initial mark a couple of years ago playing the odd gig around the Bantry area. While their talent was unmistakable, the fact that they played only covers meant that the fan base that they built up was mostly thanks to the entertainment value they provided rather than any originality or ingenuity. This would have been fine had they intended on remaining just another small town group content with a lifetime of playing in their local every second Saturday night. However, it definitely wasn’t enough to turn them into anything more.

Fast forward two years, and Mannikin have built up a repertoire of originals that have set West Cork on fire. Think Nirvana, Jeff Buckley and Incubus rolled into one. The music is catchy, the lyrics are far from the pointless drivel most independent bands bring out, and the overall sound is great. They’re booked months in advance, pubs are packed solid when they play, and most importantly, they’ve achieved pin up status among the school girls. Although the latter fact could have something more to do with their good looks than with the quality of their music. Headed by lead singer and guitarist Noel Maguire, Mannikin is made up of Panos Karkalas on bass, Brian Casey on guitar and backing vocals, and Fons Peeters on drums and percussion. Each member brings his own distinct personality, talent and background to the band. Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Mannikin though is that they still have their feet firmly on the ground.

If you do anything I tell you all year, do this: Go and watch them play. Mannikin is going places, that’s for sure. Someday it’ll be nice to be able to say that you went to see them when they were playing support in Cork; and even better to say you were close enough to get your knickers on stage (if you wanted to)!

Mannikin are playing support to The Cooper Temple Clause on March 21st in Cyprus Avenue.

Check out their web page at

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Elliott Smith - A Short Review On The Artist

Elliott Smith. For many, the name will mean nothing. For even more, it means everything. I was once a part of the former group. This should not in any way imply that I have joined the ranks of the latter. Elliott Smith does not mean everything to me. However, he now means something; and, for someone who’s writing a review on his work, that’s a good place to start.

He once said that “people just… y'know, they'll review your record in two sentences and put you in this little stupid box that you don't want to be in.” He’s right. People like me will sit up in our ivory towers thinking we know something about music. Thinking we know enough to listen to stuff like Elliott’s and make a definite judgment on it. I’m not going to do that. To do so would be to insult the art that is Elliott Smith. Even he was loathe to talk of the meaning behind his music and lyrics. He preferred to write the songs, record them, and then let the listeners take from them whatever meaning they wanted to. He admitted to not thinking “about the general public since I have no idea what the general public is and I don't think anybody does.” The fact that he himself may not have even known what his lyrics meant is something that most fans would not be able to accept as a possibility. However, it was a reality: “sometimes it seems like because I'm the one that made it up, it makes me kind of a bad person to ask what the songs are about.”

Throughout his music, and his interviews, the prevailing image of Elliott Smith is one of a man who would prefer to sit behind a screen and play his music from there. In fact, he once suggested doing just that when asked to play guitar at a friend’s gig. He constantly worried about people’s inability to look past the posters, to see past the image of Elliott Smith portrayed after the breakthrough into the ‘popular music’ world that was “Miss Misery” (the Oscar nominated song which featured on ‘Good Will Hunting’ and secured Elliott a performance on the Oscars). “There's a part of songs that are always personal, but I'm not particularly interested in concocting a picture of myself. The media is more about building celebrities than playing music.”

On the 21st October, 2003 Elliott Smith allegedly took a kitchen knife, and stabbed himself through the heart. His final, although unfinished, album ‘From A Basement On The Hill’ was released after his death. Someone once said of it that ‘if you’re not moved in some way, then you don’t move.’ It certainly may not have been his best work, but it had the potential to be. So was ‘Basement’ just a suicide note put to music? Retrospectively, you could forgive one for thinking it might be. It is hard to listen to it without the tragedy of his death overwhelming the music. However, it shouldn’t be scrutinised for all possible hints that death was at the forefront of his mind. It was one of my favourite Elliott Smith albums before I found out it had been released posthumously. From the opening track “Coast To Coast”, it is evident that you’re in for an emotional ride. The track begins with the faint sounds of whispering voices, before launching into a song that could easily be the soundtrack to your life. “Last stop for a resolution, end of the line. Is it confusion?” Down-beat lyrics to an Up-beat tune. Due to the fact that the track listing was put together after his death, some tracks do seem a bit misplaced. “Let’s Get Lost” could ironically be referring to the innocent listener getting lost in the muddled myriad of emotions dripping from one track into the other. A melting pot of emotion; perhaps the best tribute that could be paid to an artist who believed that the more emotion in a song the better as “that’s what people are like.” “Twilight” is one of my favourite songs on the album. The fragility of Smith’s voice is hauntingly tragic; “I could make you smile if you stayed a while, but you’re already somebody’s baby.”

It has been said that “Smith's music transcends the bland work of songwriters such as Damien Rice, Ryan Adams and David Gray - there's real emotion here”. I think to say that is to go a bit far. Elliott Smith is not the only one to arm his songs with emotive force. There are plenty of others out there who sing with as much pain and sadness and hunger and despair. The fact that he may have killed himself does not make his music more credible; and yet, for many of his fans, the fact that he may have killed himself is precisely the reason his music gained credibility. Genius should not need tragedy in order for it to be detected. Perhaps we should accept that Smith was no musical genius. He was simply a guy singing about the way “I feel, and the way others I know feel.” In a world where emotions are created only to be suppressed, perhaps that is the only type of genius worth talking about.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ray Charles "Genius Loves Company" - Album Review

When they decided to call Ray Charles’ final album “Genius Loves Company” you have to wonder whether they meant a genius loves the company of other genius’ or whether he simply loves the company of anyone at all. Upon listening to the album, it seems clear to me that Ray Charles certainly does not limit the company he keeps to fellow genius’, and indeed seems to harbour a certain fondness for singers who feel right at home with their lips planted firmly on his posterior. Then again, maybe that’s the price one has to pay for being somewhat of a legend. To be fair to Ray though, the choice of artists he collaborated with on this album was no doubt more the work of record companies and managers rather than his own doing. Nevertheless, the album is not only a complete disappointment to someone familiar with Ray’s work, but I imagine it would also be a let down for someone buying it solely on account of the fantastic portrayal of Charles by Jamie Foxx in the biographical movie “Ray”. This portrayal would have been a last impression more fitting to be left on the world than “Genius Loves Company” has proved to be.

Although there is nothing too bad that can be said about the album, there is certainly nothing too good that can be said either. Indeed, the whole thing just reeks of unoriginality. A group of people singing songs that have been sung too many times before. The only difference this time is that Ray Charles is one of them.

The album begins promisingly, with a beautiful little number featuring Norah Jones. In fact, “Here We Go Again” is undoubtedly one of the highlights of ‘Genius Loves Company’. It moves swiftly into the more upbeat “Sweet Potato Pie” with James Taylor and, as a big Taylor fan, I enjoyed this track immensely. “You Don’t Know Me” is up next, and while Diana Krall and Ray Charles do a pretty good version, it just doesn’t live up to the mind-blowing recording by Eva Cassidy and Chuck Brown. For that reason alone, I found this track almost painful to listen to at first. It did grow on me eventually, but I still think it’s nothing on the Chuck Brown version. The rest of the album is made up of songs that the public should be sick of by now, but evidently are not. “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”, “Fever”, “It Was A Very Good Year” and “Over The Rainbow” all contribute to lining the album with its many layers of startling predictability.

“Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” is one of the few gems of the album and is strategically placed midway. A sort of half way house within which to take refuge from the tediousness surrounding you. Ray Charles sounds right at home here, probably because it’s a song which originally featured on his own work many years ago. “Sinner’s Prayer”, another old hit of Ray’s, recorded with B.B. King, is a bluesy track which you feel is rightly more about the music than the career prospects. While Gladys Knight’s collaboration with Ray on “Heaven Help Us All” was enjoyable, it really is Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” that ends the album on a good note, no pun intended.

All in all, the album is more of a keepsake than a work of musical genius. There is nothing new, there is nothing original, and there is nothing to encourage you to put the record on repeat and keep it there. Like the final work of so many artists, this album was bought by the public and showered with awards by the industry for the simple fact that it is Ray Charles’ final record. What its success would be like if he were still alive is debatable, but in the words of a good friend of mine, the record as it stands sounds like too many people telling Ray Charles that he’s great.

Monday, January 08, 2007

2007 - Off To A Bad Start

Happy New Year everyone!
I know it's been too long since I've posted. But to be honest, I haven't posted because all that there seems to post about these days is just so depressing!
I was hoping that 2007 would be a different year. That it would see the world recognizing its mistakes and putting things right. Alas, it is not to be it seems.
Not only has Bush signed a new law allowing him to open the private mail of American citizens, but the US is also putting into motion plans to build a nuclear weapon. Unsuprisingly, Israel is planning on launching a nuclear strike against Iran. Ah the irony is almost amusing. They slam Iran for TRYING to start building a nuclear program, then decide to tackle the "problem" by attacking Iran with the very nuclear weapons they seem so opposed to. Does anyone else see the deplorability of such an attitude?!!
The White House has denied public access to its visitor logs, and Iraqi oil will soon be put onto the Western market for greedy hands to get their fingers on.

Bill Fisher writes an interesting piece about the ironies of 2006.

As you can see, the world just isn't a great place to blog about anymore. Perhaps I should just stop following current affairs, stop casting everything that happens in a political light. But then, surely the state of the world is the most important thing that there is.

Sometimes...I find it hard to keep believing that. Ignorance is bliss, and I'm beginning to wish I were more ignorant.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Like Two Entwining Strands Of The Double Helix

"Like the two entwining strands of the double helix, law and power form the genetic structure of government. Law is nothing but empty verbiage without power to back it up, enforce it, embody it. And power without law is nothing but a mad ape, baring its teeth, thumping its chest, raping and beating where it pleases, taking what it wants: a bestial thing, born in the muddy swamp of our lowest, blindest, rawest biochemical impulses. Disconnect these strands and things fall apart, as Yeats says; the center literally cannot hold, and the blood-dimmed tide is loosed upon the world."
Chris Floyd, Presidential Tyranny Untamed by Election Defeat

Monday, December 11, 2006

M. Ward, Chinese Translations

M. Ward, Chinese Translations.

'If life is really as short as they say,
then why is the past so long?'

They Waste Paper Telling Us Not To!

On my way home I passed a billboard advertising credit cards. Not any particular one, just credit cards in general. Their slogan was "Don't Waste Paper".
I don't know about you, but I can think of a lot more ways that paper is wasted than by printing money! !

Selective Advertising. That's all it is. Let's make you feel bad about using paper money by printing out all these guilt-inducing billboard advertisments ON PAPER! Does anyone else see the irony?

I'm not really a fan of credit cards. In fact, I'm not really a fan of most things virtual. I prefer to deal with things that are a bit more tactile than numbers and figures hurtling through cyber-space.
But then again, that's just me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Authentic Cuisine?

Myself and my cousin Liz decided to go to a Lebanese restaurant I saw the other day while walking down Middle Abbey Street. I was looking forward to stepping back to the reality that I've left behind in AD.
It's called 'Fayrouz'. At face value this seemed authentic enough for me...
...*sigh* the innocence of an empty stomach!

'Fayrouz' was an Arabic restaurant alright; An Arabic restaurant with Indian waiters, Chinese cooks, a television mutely showing a British soap opera, 80's Euro-pop not-so-quietly playing in the background and a menu which advertised 'nam' bread.

Yes. It was an experience.

In their defence though, the falafels were good.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Extract From "Lila"

"This Cartesian 'Me', this autonomous little homunculus who sits behind our eyeballs looking out through them in order to pass judgment on the affairs of the world, is just completely ridiculous. This self-appointed little editor of reality is just an impossible fiction that collapses the moment one examines it. This Cartesian 'Me' is a software reality, not a hardware reality. This body on the left and this body on the right are running variations of the same program, the same 'Me', which doesn't belong to either of them. The 'Me's' are simply a program format. Talk about aliens from another planet. This program based on 'Me's' and 'We's' is the alien. 'We' has only been here for a few thousand years or so. But these bodies that 'We' has taken over were around for ten times that long before 'We' came along. And the cells - my God, the cells have been around for thousands of times that long.
These poor stupid bodies that 'We' has invaded, he thought. Every once in a while they overthrow the program and go about their ways leaving 'We' mystified about how all this could have happened. Mystified, and somewhat horrified too at the things bodies do without its permission. All of this sexual morality of Rigel's - it wasn't just social codes. It was also part of this sense of horror at these cells 'We' has invaded and the strange patterns of Quality that existed before 'We' arrived.
These cells make sweat and snot and phlegm. They belch and bleed and fuck and fart and piss and shit and vomit and squeeze out more bodies just like themselves all covered with blood and placental slime that grow and squeeze out more bodies, on and on.
'We', the software reality, find these hardware facts so distressing that it covers them with euphemisms and clothes and medical secrecy. But what 'We' is covering up is pure quality for the cells. The cells have gotten to their advanced state of evolution through all this fucking and farting and pissing and shitting. That's quality! Particularly the sexual functions. From the cells' point of view sex is pure Dynamic Quality, the highest Good of all."

Extract from "Lila", by Robert M. Pirsig

Monday, November 13, 2006

Radiators Have Feelings Too

For the first month of living in my new apartment, I had no gas. By this, I literally mean I had no gas. This meant no cooking and, more importantly, no heating! In fact, I got so used to the cold, that for once I wasn’t the person complaining when the weather took a bad turn. Frost, mist, icicles; none elicited any reaction from me. While others were chattering in their thermal undies, I was humming a merry tune and prancing about the flowers in my bikini. It got so bad that people who visited me kept their coats on the whole time. In fact, it got to the point where I could judge what the days weather would be like from the density of the cloud my breath would form before my face each morning as I awoke.

Needless to say, it was a cold month.

The problem with the cooking wasn’t so hard to live with. I have a microwave, and luckily that doesn’t run on gas. It might be the most unhealthy, cancerous-causing, way to cook food, but it didn’t run on gas. Therefore, I single-handedly kept the Tesco vegetarian ready-made meal market afloat. Veggie curry, rice, veggie curry, rice, veggie potato curry, rice…it wasn’t a particularly varied diet, but as I’ve stated, it didn’t require gas.

Needless to say, I lost weight.

In fact, I lost so much weight that I now need a new wardrobe. My parents of course think this was all planned. Although I would like to claim to have the intelligence necessary to hatch such a well-thought out, original method of eliciting money for a new wardrobe, I fear I must own up and say, no, alas, it didn’t quite work out like that. Simply, I had no gas. And Tesco had no good microwavable food.

A couple of weeks ago, my gas got connected. I really must commend the Irish Gas Board for their speedy service. It only took them 4 weeks. They beat Eircom; from whom I am still expecting the broadband package I ordered 6 weeks ago.

Anyhoo, the gas got connected, and I got heating.

It’s actually quite amazing how easy it is to forget what some things are like. I honestly had begun to believe that everyone spent the first 10 minutes in bed each night, their duvet swathed about themselves like a cocoon, shivering to get warm. I’ll be upfront with you. For the first few nights I missed it. Going to bed had become less of an adventure, if you will. I found myself just lying there thinking ‘so…I just go straight to sleep?’ The sudden presence of heat in the house was quite exciting. I spent many hours next to my new best friends the radiators. Unfortunately, none of the radiators were close enough to the beds, or the chairs. None, that is, except for the one in the bathroom. Whoever designed my box of a bathroom was smart. The radiator is right next to the toilet. That could be due to the lack of space. Nevertheless, the bathroom became my favourite place. More specifically, the toilet became my favourite seat. When heating was still a novelty I would drink bucketfuls of water, just so that I could spend as much time as possible next to Bert. That’s the radiator by the way. When you spend so much time with something, it feels almost rude not to give it a name. I seriously considered moving a desk in there. If the bathroom had been a bit bigger, I might have. I didn’t though. And eventually, I had to end things with Bert. We still see each other, although it’s not quite as serious. It wasn’t him, it was me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Death For Saddam: A Real Sentence From A Mock Trial

I'm in shock.

I knew it was coming, but now that it's here I just can't believe it.
Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death.
The outcome of that joke of a trial was decided before it had even begun.

I don't know what to say.
Back in May when the 'trial' began I wrote about it. Back Stabbing Saddam Hussein.
I feel sorry for the man.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Frazzled and Fatigued!

Well, the cracks are beginning to show. Or rather, they're beginning to form.
The gruelling schedule is starting to take its toll on all of us; and, some of us are handling it better than others.
How am I handling it? Oh, only by bringing into question my very mental sanity. Let's just say I don't function the best when overcome by fatigue. Picture alot of, what myself and my new friend the lovely Heff referred to today as, the partial externalisation of my internal monologue. In English, that's alot of talking to myself in unfinished sentences!
Many seem unfrazzled by the work load; but, I don't believe them. I think the rampant acne breakout in the class is a clear indicator that stress levels are on the rise.

So, apologies for not keeping you uptodate.
In fact, I'm going to have to let you go, as tomorrow I'm supposed to be mooting. Ok, I will be mooting. There's no getting out of it. So I have to go formulate some sort of argument!