Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cruelty to animals: "Halloween Savagery"

I'm not posting the link because the imagery is too upsetting: Last night in Dublin some youths put a lit firework in the mouth of a dog, blowing her mouth off and causing so much damage she had to be put down. Any human being that would deliberately cause harm to someone or something defenceless is sub-human. It reminded me that last night outside my window some lads were trying to hit swans in the river with objects but they were thankfully too drunk and kept missing, so they moved on quickly enough out of boredom. Apparently this is the start of "Halloween savagery", savagery that seems to happen every year. I'm not sure why, but I had forgotten stories of old of cats being electrocuted on Halloween, maybe it's because as a society we are all far too preoccupied with staying in a bubble that we miss things like this, or maybe it's because thankfully this is still minority behaviour that we just don't come across it.

... But if it is starting now for the lead up to Halloween, that is worrying. If you see someone even taunting an animal or bird, call the gardai, please; you would if you saw a human being victimised. If you think this I am just another person with another cause here, read the story in the Independent, but I warn you it's one of the most horrific stories I have read in a long time. Humans kill humans all the time, it's shocking and upsetting, but there is something about cruelty to animals, who cannot defend themselves or even vocalise a reaction, that is even more upsetting.

Monday, August 9, 2010

In defence of modern art, again.

I spent some time at the Kilkenny arts festival this weekend, however the shows I had intended on seeing were sold out - so instead I spent my time perusing the many art exhibitions and street performances available and generally soaking up the atmosphere.

The first exhibition I saw was by a movement by women known as the Guerrilla Girls( ) who "... use their wit, website and interactive multimedia events to combat sexism, racism and social injustice, focusing attention on such taboo subjects as workplace discrimination, armed forces recruitment tactics in schools, and abortion access.". It was fascinating and inspiring to finally see an exhibition on feminism without the overscribed attachment to sexuality and instead focusing on the issues as those of women as a gender. There were few people wandering around, but those who were were interested and respectful of a gallery setting, reading, educating and perusing with wonder, or so their faces said. There was no air of pretension, just onlookers interacting with a statement on the world in which we live. Refreshing. And so on I went to my next exhibition, in the castle.

"Tony O’Malley holds an important and distinguished position in the history of twentieth century Irish art. A highly respected and beloved artist, his works are represented in all major Irish museums and included in the most significant public and private collections of Irish art. " ... And really I would have to say that the sculptures in this exhibition were mesmerising. I am struggling to find images of the newly unveiled show, but you can get a sense of it here What I found about this exhibition launch was the stark contrast between it and the one I had just come from - This was the kind of exhibition that invited the most pretentious kinds of people, mixed in with those who just wanted free wine and would not get served for being underage.Wandering around it was difficult to get lost in the pieces, it was overcrowded with poncy aspiring middle class art heads standing in the way of the pieces, drinking wine and discussing the "metaphysical levels" of the individual works and how they appealed "deeply", of how when they knew him when he was alive that he was such a friend, and of course how his wife Jane, in attendance, used to look so much better years ago. It was snobbery of the highest order. all of which detracted from the exhibition itself. But the pieces were spectacular - driftwood painted and loved and transformed into living instruments and characters - the Sea Harps genuinely sang and the faces really did stare out at you as you stood there in judgement and wonder. Though there was a sad feeling wandering around, that this art, real art from real wood and created purely was being judged on the most pretentious levels going, it is still an exhibition well worth seeing.

And so we moved onto a jewelry exhibition. I am not even sure where to start on this one. The jewelry was beautiful, expensive, but beautiful. The point at which I left was when we were patronisingly called over for a "private public showing" to ogle wooden bowls and discuss how the smooth texture of the creation set it apart as almost fantastical. It was a wooden bowl. A nice bowl, but just a wooden bowl. ( - This isn't even the particular bowl we were invited to ooh over, this one looks far more detailed)

Five minutes later we were in another gallery off the beaten track in a two room enclosure with "modern art". The first room I entered had 4 pieces on the walls. I could have made them myself, and be really rich and important now. One wall held 2 canvasses, identical black bordered smudged only at the edges ivory canvasses - one called "The Lane" and the other "untitled". Facing them was a red canvas with a large (, but symmetrical and proportionate, white square in the top right corner. On the wall perpendicular to that was the red canvasses mirror image canvas, except it was blue. I will admit that the other room held some rather nice pieces of art, but again nothing that would set them aside as the next Francis bacon. All in all an extremely disappointing exhibition.

And so ended my tour of modern art in the Kilkenny arts festival. I spend so many days defending "modern art" and speaking about how it can really affect you if you open up to it - talking about amazing artists like the aforementioned Bacon and indeed the sculptures of Louise Bourgeois, or the endless list of worthwhile shows in the Tate Modern - all the while being met with arguments like"Isn't all modern art just blank canvasses, why would I want to see that? It's not art" and me crying "Nooooo, you're missing the point!" and trying in vain to convert those who have had the experiences I just had in Kilkenny, where some absolute muppet paints a blank canvas and masquerades it as art, worthwhile art, and dares to patronise you because you just do not understand it. Bullshit. Art is supposed to challenge you, to call on something in you that either makes you reassess your morals and outlook on life, or else appeals to something in it with which you identify - it is not supposed to make you sit there and wonder are you smart enough to really understand what is going on, and if it does do that, then it has failed, I think. There is a difference between being challenged by a piece and being made a fool of.

I feel certain that those people in the Tony O' Malley exhibition would have thought the mono-coloured canvasses were wonders of art, that they too spoke on many "metaphysical levels" and were worthy of high praise. Those people would also have told the emperor that his new outfit was a marvelous fit and think that Bono is a god, simply because the masses say he is. The world needs to grow some individuality genes and cop on. You are not a lemming. Take the art, look at it, appreciate it if it's genuinely worthy of that, and say it's rubbish if it is - do not take my word for it, and do not take theirs.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

So it does not make me more alert, I think you're missing the point...


The article above is from The Irish Times today discussing the fact that coffee does not make people more alert, and how we will be disappointed by this fact. I disagree; coffee for me is not about the caffeine hit I get from it, if it were I would drink an equal amount of real tea or coke, it's more than that. I think Monsieur Ahlstrom is both missing the point and not a coffee drinker:

To rehash something I have said before - I cannot function without coffee in the mornings, or at the very least ginger and lemon tea and today is no exception. Ask my colleagues. Not that I am cranky, I just cannot really fully process what anyone says to me unless I have had my coffee. It is not the caffeine fix I need either, it is the psychology of the waking up process - in an ideal world I would wake up, turn on 'Morning Ireland', make a pot of coffee and read the paper. Instead I wake up and have a quick shower and get to work because I've hit the snooze button too many times.

On my way to work I like to stop into a shop or cafe and buy breakfast, usually a muffin or a Danish pastry which I bring with me to work and have with that cup of coffee I am by now so longing for. Sometimes I cannot wait and stop into a little French cafe en route and get a take away... but as delicious and strong as this cup of coffee is, it doesn't have the same effect as when I arrive into work, make my little cafetierre of coffee and get that "aah" feeling from the first taste. That moment is bliss, I can now start my day, and all is right with the world.

I am not a morning person, again, not that I am cranky per se, more that I need time to wake up and process the world before communicating with it. I need head space to look at the sun rising, or raindrops pelting off the cars outside, to enjoy simplicities like brushing my teeth after a night’s sleep, having a shower to wake me up, make my bed, and then I am set to go. I think, not about the day ahead, but about what I see in front of me - the guy running for the bus, the woman walking her dog, the couple holding hands, or arguing, the heron in the Lee, the students with perfectly straightened hair who are clearly first years (or commerce students), and I give myself time to wake up and take everything in, before I have to talk to anyone.

I have just had my coffee, and the world is looking pretty good right now.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

On missing the French zombie film, and on spending 7 hours in A&E.

In defence of my already substantial reputation as being rather predictable in bailing on social events, I must state immediately my reason was that my grandfather had another stroke. I went into A&E with my father at 8pm where the next 8 hours would be the most entertaining and tragic (for other people) I have had in a long time:

The first few hours were worry filled; keeping granddad talking, busy, laughing so as to not get down with having spent an already 8 hours on a trolley in an emergency department that was full of screaming babies and nutcases. I read snippets of factual stories from FOCUS, told stories of what I had been up to in recent times, got him chatting about olden times and his first car, and we whiled away the time quite nicely. Cue clock chiming midnight.

Into the "interview room" arrives a young woman screaming the department down, saying something about the devil. With her are two gardai, and she has to be forcibly restrained by 3 of the hospital security guys. She throws furniture around, tries to bite security, is in some sort of hallucination filled state and causing a general ruckus. All in all it is highly entertaining to the bored patients and relatives outside, albeit extremely tragic. Time moves on and the woman remains in that state, more drug induced issues present themselves in new patients: The man who has taken "LSD" and wanders around in his sunglasses telling everyone to "get out of (his) way", and the woman who has overdosed on 140 tablets even though she only had an absolute possible of 28 on her and later revealed she took 8.

As the night progressed the hallucinating paranoid woman was allowed into the general A&E cubicle area where we all learned about the dangerous devil she could see - he was red with blue eyes. For a large portion of the night he seemed to be located somewhere behind me, as that was where she spent a significant amount of time pointing at. There was a short spell of time where the devil changed format and took the form of "the nurse in blue with the hair", he did change back to his devil form again though. All my grandfather could do was repeat "It's crazy" over and over as he tried to get his old head round the state of the world today, a world that was evidently drastically different to the one in which he grew up.

I grew bored again when all three of the tragically entertaining patients were sedated and fell asleep. My attention was once again drawn to the stethoscope that had sat enticingly on the counter top right in front of me. I had been looking at it for near on 4 hours now, but there was never any opportunity to nab it to play with it. I had long since gotten bored of the nerve hammer I was playing with, testing my father and grandfather's reflexes, as well as my own, coming to the conclusion we were all perfect, so instead I distracted myself with thinking of the various diseases I might have and not be aware of. Sitting there I figured if I already had a history of Henoch Schoenlien, a recurring brain tumour, had a visible ganglion on my wrist and an ongoing arthritic knee... there were surely other things I could have (I have since diagnosed myself with temporomandibular joint disorder because of my negatively progressing locked jaw)... I quickly got bored of that game because really without google I could not accurately diagnose anything, and as much fun as the drawers of instruments and tubes were, they did not help with that. Just when I had given up hope and my father had promised to buy me a stethoscope for my birthday, did an opportunity present itself. Cool as a cucumber I leaned against the desk and sneakily nabbed it. Back to the cubicle I spent the next twenty minutes listening to my heart and my gurgling stomach. However it was now 2.30am and I was getting delerious.

Eventually the doctor arrived at 3am, the doctor who had been sitting behind the desk doing paperwork for the previous 2 hours without moving. The desk in front of us. After a long series of tests and questions, we were moved to a ward where at 4am we bid my grandfather goodnight and went home to bed.

I should add at the stage that my grandfather is still in hospital, but in great spirits!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tonight I survived a post-apocalyptic zombie filled waste land.

My father rang home tonight to say the area had been cordoned off by the police, that there were sirens everywhere and that instead of coming home on break, he was going back into work. My mother was intrigued so she persuaded me with my wet hair to change into day-clothes and go check it out. It was like a scene from the apocalypse when I went outside, I have never seen the area so eerily quiet - not a single car or person was in sight. I wandered down the middle of the road toward the hill, not a soul around, not a sound, and I contemplated all of the Zombie survival quizzes I had taken and thought of fallen London (clearly I have been playing way too many games on the internet). As I walked on I saw the barrier behind me in the distance blocking one route into the area, as I continued farther toward the hill I saw another barrier stopping access from that side: It was all so strange. I wandered half way down the hill, checking for zombie's on the way, and was met with nothing. I spied the towering walls convinced I was being watched; if it wasn't zombies then it had to be aliens surely. Where was everyone? And where were these sirens my father had mentioned along with cars, beeping, and arguing amongst the grid-locked drivers? This wasn't the scene of mayhem I had expected to see, this was the polar opposite - a zombie movie. I thought about the filming of it and how perfect the setting was, but I couldn't escape the paranoia that after all the Oscar-winning performances I have seen, that this really was it.

Nothing was happening on the hill so I walked back up in the other direction to the other barrier. I could hear this dull drilling noise, the only noise on the road. Inside houses people were standing at windows talking, looking out and generally going about their business, completely oblivious to the fact that right outside their front doors I was walking through what could well be a post apocalyptic zombie waste land. I kept walking down the middle of the road and saw an elderly couple - the man stared at me so intently I genuinely entertained the thought that maybe it was me, maybe I was the zombie , but I kept walking, he eerily stared at me as I kept walking and he and his wife got into their car - the only other sound outside besides that low drilling noise. This scene was getting stranger by the minute. The couple kept watching me as I walked, not because I was in their way walking down the middle of the road on a freezing night in hobo clothing with wet hair, but either because I was looking like a zombie, or because I was staring at them like they were the walking undead. I kept walking following the sound of the drilling and the couple eventually drove off - Can zombie's drive cars? Yes they can. Mistake number one would be to assume they cannot. I could at this stage see people, high viz jackets, a drill and some panic. I immediately thought dead body, after all this area is somewhat synonymous with various crime boss types from over the years. I figured the people I could see weren't zombies, from where I was standing they seemed very much alive. Maybe mistake number two, but I kept walking anyway intrigued.

There were 4 of them standing around a hole. No sirens, no police, no fire brigade, no army, no bomb squad and no dead people... Just 4 council workers drilling. It was then I saw it; the scene that had caused so much speculation about a zombie filled post apocalyptic waste land; the thing that had seen sirens and a police presence at the only other entrance to the area not 30 minutes previous; the very speculative thing that had caused my mother to send me with my wet hair and hobo clothes out into the freezing night on my own to investigate: A burst sewer pipe. I thought maybe there was a sewer monster, maybe there was a... And then I thought, "Fuck it, I'm going home".

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Calling your inner word geek...

I suck at daily posting. Instead of a video today I'm going to share something to satisfy the inner word geek in everyone!

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational asks readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are some winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high
8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
13. Glibido: All talk and no action.
14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.
16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words:

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach. -
4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.
6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.
7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokémon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism, gn. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.