Friday 29 June 2007

Music - Ben Watt

Went to see house DJ Ben Watt (he of "Everything But The Girl" fame) last week in Fast Eddies, Cork. "Feddies" is a bastion of deep house in the deep south with resident DJs, Fish Go Deep (they of "Cure and the Cause"). Deep house wouldn't be my favourite form of dance music but had heard a lot of good things about Ben Watt.

I had braced myself for a lower tempo than I used to and some deep, rich vocals meandering over dissonant beats, but was very pleasantly surprised. The lolling breakdowns I associate with deep house didn't materialise, with Watt bringing the crowd with him from downbeat bliss to big bass lines to cheesy vocals to an unrelenting final encore.

1st tune on entering club
"Just a blip - Ben Watt"
Check it out

Mixed this next track later in brilliantly, let it play for a while and then brought in ...

a remix of a track I never liked but with an excellent remix that rocked the joint (can't find remix)

I always admire a DJ who is strong enough to play a bit of cheese without playing it for the sake of it. I think he rocked the place with a remix of
"You keep me hanging on"

A DJ mixing lower tempo music really has a lot more to do, with any flaws very evident. They have far more control over a crowd as opposed to a trance DJ where it almost exclusively has to be driven by high bpm's, crescendos, lasers and fast paced melodies. Vocals often veer to a very sickly of cheese e.g AVB "Black is the colour"??.

Some of the feedback from deep house aficionados wasn't very positive on Watt's set, but I found it a varied and skilled performance. Other forms of dance music definitely have a more euphoric and instantly gratifying effect - the culinary equivalent of a Big Mad - whereas Watt's set had a sense of journey and satisfaction at its finale.

Friday 22 June 2007

Sport - Bigger than this

Ever so often someone comes along and redefines the principles of a sport by being awesomely superior to everyone else. At their peak, they seem to become bigger than the very discipline they practice and are often deemed as a possible threat to the sport itself. Athletes such as Wilt Chamberlain, Sonny Liston, and Tiger Woods have all done this in the past. One of the athletes to do that in recent times was Mike Tyson.

His life story almost reads like a parody of a gutter-to-glory boxing story. Absent father, arrested 38 times by the age of 13 ,kept in juvenile detention centres until his boxing talent was noticed. He was then passed on to legendary boxing trainer Cus D'amato, who later became his legal guardian. D'amato became a father figure for him and helped develop (along with Kevin Rooney later)hand speed, accuracy, coordination, power, and timing along with his awesome natural strength.

Cus D'Amato

They also developed excellent defensive techniques with a Peek-a-Boo style where he slipped and weaved out of the way of the opponent's punches while closing the distance to deliver his own punches (you can really see this at 0:39 in the second clip).
Tyson's Training Routine

Tyson won 19 of his first 22 fights by knockout, 14 of which came in the first round. At the age of 20 years and 4 months became the youngest heavyweight champion in history.At that time he was around 222 lb (101 kg) with approximately 5.5% body fat, and 5 ft 11 in(180 cm).


D'Amato died in November, 1985, relatively early into Tyson's professional career. I think it would be far too simplistic to say this was the genesis for the troubles Tyson was to experience later as his life and career progressed. He later became heavily influenced by Don King and as a result got rid of his white trainer, Rooney. Known to be a gentleman one day, but capable of committing reprehensible acts the next, it's hard to figure out if Tyson was just a lost ghetto kid that never replaced the father figure of D'Amato or had the raw savagery of his boxing overtaken his persona. Undoubtedly, he was led astray by the people he surrounded himself with , like King ("I found out that someone I believed was my surrogate father, my brother, my blood figure turns out to be the true Uncle Tom, the true nigger, the true sellout. He did more bad to black fighters than any white promoter ever in the history of boxing"). Whatever your opinion, it's hard not to resist looking at the eye of the human storm, a glimpse of the god-given destructive powers of man.

Final Countdown (Cheesy song - excellent vid)

Thursday 21 June 2007

Irish Artists - Luke Kelly

Feeling a bit maudlin' today. Must be the sheets of dreary, june rain peppering the kitchen window. Had my music set to random and Luke Kelly's voice echoed around the house, and what a voice it is. Brims with power and emotion. The Irish seem to love people who can make them laugh and cry within a short few breaths. Polished performers who have perfected their trade over years never seem quite as real as someone like Kelly who believed in what he sang. He recorded songs dealing with social issues, the arms race, workers' rights and nationalism while never appearing aloof from his audience, his people.

I don't know whether he resonates as powerfully with people from outside Ireland, but some of his songs never fail to draw me in and cause even a little throat clearing.

His version of "Raglan Road" came about when the poem's author, Patrick Kavanah heard him singing in a pub in Dublin city then called the Bailey. After some initial reluctance he came up with this.

And then there's this. One of the few songs that made my heart feel like bursting at the first listen.
Songwriter: Phil Colclough

Walking all the day, near tall towers
where falcons build their nests
Siver winged they fly,
they know the call of freedom in their breasts
Saw Black Head against the sky
with twisted rocks that run down to the sea
Living on your western shore,
saw summer sunsets, asked for more
I stood by your Atlantic sea
and sang a song for Ireland

Talking all the day with true friends
who try to make you stay
Telling jokes and news,
singing songs to pass the night away
Watched the Galway salmon run
like silver dancing darting in the sun
Living on your western shore
saw summer sunsets, asked for more
I stood by your Atlantic sea
and sang a song for Ireland

Drinking all the day in old pubs
where fiddlers love to play
Someone touched the bow,
he played a reel
it seemed so fine and gay
Stood on Dingle beach
and cast in wild foam we found Atlantic bass
Living on your western shore,
saw summer sunsets asked for more
I stood by your Atlantic sea
and sang a song for Ireland

Dreaming in the night I saw a land
where no man had to fight
Waking in your dawn
I saw you crying in the morning light
Lying where the falcons fly,
they twist and turn all in you e'er blue sky
Living on your western shore,
saw summer sunsets asked for more
I stood by your Atlantic sea
and sang a song for Ireland

But he was also some man for the craic, which just added to his persona and ability to connect with people.

Octopus jig - Encore!

Take her up to Monto

Love the last verse -
The Queen she came to call on us,
She wanted to see all of us
I'm glad she didn't fall on us, she's eighteen stone.
"Mister Me Lord Mayor," says she,
"Is this all you've got to show me?"
"Why, no ma'am there's some more to see, Pog mo thoin!"

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Sport - Choking and Chokers

Some of us are blessed with more natural ability than others. That doesn't mean you have to be naturally good at something to excel. Ability can be drilled and trained. You may need to augment that ability with other factors such as heart and hunger, but it can be done. The problems start when you doubt that ability, natural or otherwise. When you have to think about something that you should be doing naturally is when the problems start. Here's a great article on choking.

The Art of Failure
By Malcolm Gladwell.

There was a moment, in the third and deciding set of the 1993 Wimbledon final, when Jana Novotna seemed invincible. She was leading 4-1 and serving at 40-30, meaning that she was one point from winning the game, and just five points from the most coveted championship in tennis. She had just hit a backhand to her opponent, Steffi Graf, that skimmed the net and landed so abruptly on the far side of the court that Graf could only watch, in flat- footed frustration. The stands at Center Court were packed. The Duke and Duchess of Kent were in their customary place in the royal box. Novotna was in white, poised and confident, her blond hair held back with a headband--and then something happened. She served the ball straight into the net. She stopped and steadied herself for the second serve--the toss, the arch of the back--but this time it was worse. Her swing seemed halfhearted, all arm and no legs and torso. Double fault. On the next point, she was slow to react to a high shot by Graf, and badly missed on a forehand volley. At game point, she hit an overhead straight into the net. Instead of 5-1, it was now 4-2. Graf to serve: an easy victory, 4-3. Novotna to serve. She wasn't tossing the ball high enough. Her head was down. Her movements had slowed markedly. She double-faulted once, twice, three times. Pulled wide by a Graf forehand, Novotna inexplicably hit a low, flat shot directly at Graf, instead of a high crosscourt forehand that would have given her time to get back into position: 4-4. Did she suddenly realize how terrifyingly close she was to victory? Did she remember that she had never won a major tournament before? Did she look across the net and see Steffi Graf--Steffi Graf!--the greatest player of her generation?

On the baseline, awaiting Graf's serve, Novotna was now visibly agitated, rocking back and forth, jumping up and down. She talked to herself under her breath. Her eyes darted around the court. Graf took the game at love; Novotna, moving as if in slow motion, did not win a single point: 5-4, Graf. On the sidelines, Novotna wiped her racquet and her face with a towel, and then each finger individually. It was her turn to serve. She missed a routine volley wide, shook her head, talked to herself. She missed her first serve, made the second, then, in the resulting rally, mis-hit a backhand so badly that it sailed off her racquet as if launched into flight. Novotna was unrecognizable, not an élite tennis player but a beginner again. She was crumbling under pressure, but exactly why was as baffling to her as it was to all those looking on. Isn't pressure supposed to bring out the best in us? We try harder. We concentrate harder. We get a boost of adrenaline. We care more about how well we perform. So what was happening to her?

At championship point, Novotna hit a low, cautious, and shallow lob to Graf. Graf answered with an unreturnable overhead smash, and, mercifully, it was over. Stunned, Novotna moved to the net. Graf kissed her twice. At the awards ceremony, the Duchess of Kent handed Novotna the runner-up's trophy, a small silver plate, and whispered something in her ear, and what Novotna had done finally caught up with her. There she was, sweaty and exhausted, looming over the delicate white-haired Duchess in her pearl necklace. The Duchess reached up and pulled her head down onto her shoulder, and Novotna started to sob.

Human beings sometimes falter under pressure. Pilots crash and divers drown. Under the glare of competition, basketball players cannot find the basket and golfers cannot find the pin. When that happens, we say variously that people have "panicked" or, to use the sports colloquialism, "choked." But what do those words mean? Both are pejoratives. To choke or panic is considered to be as bad as to quit. But are all forms of failure equal? And what do the forms in which we fail say about who we are and how we think?We live in an age obsessed with success, with documenting the myriad ways by which talented people overcome challenges and obstacles. There is as much to be learned, though, from documenting the myriad ways in which talented people sometimes fail.

"Choking" sounds like a vague and all-encompassing term, yet it describes a very specific kind of failure. For example, psychologists often use a primitive video game to test motor skills. They'll sit you in front of a computer with a screen that shows four boxes in a row, and a keyboard that has four corresponding buttons in a row. One at a time, x's start to appear in the boxes on the screen, and you are told that every time this happens you are to push the key corresponding to the box. According to Daniel Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, if you're told ahead of time about the pattern in which those x's will appear, your reaction time in hitting the right key will improve dramatically. You'll play the game very carefully for a few rounds, until you've learned the sequence, and then you'll get faster and faster. Willingham calls this "explicit learning." But suppose you're not told that the x's appear in a regular sequence, and even after playing the game for a while you're not aware that there is a pattern. You'll still get faster: you'll learn the sequence unconsciously. Willingham calls that "implicit learning"--learning that takes place outside of awareness. These two learning systems are quite separate, based in different parts of the brain. Willingham says that when you are first taught something--say, how to hit a backhand or an overhead forehand--you think it through in a very deliberate, mechanical manner. But as you get better the implicit system takes over: you start to hit a backhand fluidly, without thinking. The basal ganglia, where implicit learning partially resides, are concerned with force and timing, and when that system kicks in you begin to develop touch and accuracy, the ability to hit a drop shot or place a serve at a hundred miles per hour. "This is something that is going to happen gradually," Willingham says. "You hit several thousand forehands, after a while you may still be attending to it. But not very much. In the end, you don't really notice what your hand is doing at all."

Under conditions of stress, however, the explicit system sometimes takes over. That's what it means to choke. When Jana Novotna faltered at Wimbledon, it was because she began thinking about her shots again. She lost her fluidity, her touch. She double-faulted on her serves and mis-hit her overheads, the shots that demand the greatest sensitivity in force and timing. She seemed like a different person--playing with the slow, cautious deliberation of a beginner--because, in a sense, she was a beginner again: she was relying on a learning system that she hadn't used to hit serves and overhead forehands and volleys since she was first taught tennis, as a child. The same thing has happened to Chuck Knoblauch, the New York Yankees' second baseman, who inexplicably has had trouble throwing the ball to first base. Under the stress of playing in front of forty thousand fans at Yankee Stadium, Knoblauch finds himself reverting to explicit mode, throwing like a Little Leaguer again.

Which brings us to Mayo, a team that seem to ooze confidence at times but four times in ten years, 1996 to 2006, failed miserably when it mattered most, all-ireland day.

They lost after a reply in 1996 and seemed primed to win against Kerry a year later. They played poorly and came up against the most naturally talented footballer of recent times, Maurice Fitzgerald. Even gifted footballers couldn't train themselves to imitate this man.

Although, they're not that clear in this clip. I love the screams of disbelief around 3:05

Music - CSS

I know the initial hype about this Cansei de Ser Sexy has come and gone, but it's taken me a while to decide whether i love, or hate, their sound. It does veer occasionally to a cheesy, grating ;) sound, but it is damn funky.

Let's make love and listen to death from above

Put yourself in the crowd for this tune live. I think you would have to devoid of a lust for life if you didn't boogie your ass to this. This crowd of Dubs seem to loike id anyways, yanowhaimean.

And to cap it all, the band is led by a fiesty little minx calling herself "lovefoxxx". At the last show of one of CSS' tours, she went on stage wearing her entire wardrobe. As each song on the set list was played, she removed one piece until at the end of the night she was naked, then dived into the crowd. Yowzzers, my kind of triple x fox.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Bon Journo!

I always find the less I have to do, the less I get done. Sounds obvious, but remember in college when you only had to go in for one lecture, well I was one of those people who could never tear my lazy self away from "Take the high road" or some other random soap. At least, I chose a particular genre of soap where the characters' lives seemed to be comfortingly bleak or just plain mental (usually involving evil, long-lost, identical twins). I'm still not sure if the soaps were acutally demotivating me or whether they were comforting me in my demotivated state. I'm fairly sure there was a vicious circle in there somewhere. Anywho, this brings me nicely along to the point where I explain why I have started this blog. I always find the more I have to do, the more I get done.