Thursday 23 August 2007

Music - For Driving

Today's entry promises to be a little brighter after yesterday's heavy and slightly cryptic entry. Had a good 'airing' of views with certain people involved in the situation last night which generally cleared a few misunderstandings. It's good to talk.

Previous to the meeting, I went for a drive with this song from Irish group director playing. Perfect driving music.

Another good one, Editors - Smoking outside the hospital doors

Don't really like this kind of rock but great playing behind the wheel. Jimmy Eat World - Pain

Driving would be a typically male activity if there is a problem to ponder. Withdrawal into yourself to figure out a way past something. The driving provides enough distraction from the problem but allows you to subconsciously search for an answer. Usually, when you come out of your 'cave' you have some sort of solution. The male species is definitely a strange yet simple beast.

Any other suggestions for music for driving?

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Daily Life - Should I Stay or Should I go?

Just been reading Lance Armstrong's first book. He describes his early years as a teen competing against experienced athletes in triathlons. His determination and desire were heavily steeped in a reckless need to go faster and be first. He mentions how he used to 'race' traffic lights when still in high school - beating 5 in a row one day, narrowly missing the reds each time until the sixth when he was broadsided. After sustaining injuries that needed stitches in his foot, knee and head his doctor advised him to rest up for a few weeks and stay away from any training. 5 days later he took out most of the stitches and competed in a triathlon. He won the event and after the ensuing media coverage he received a letter from his doctor simply stating "I don't believe it". Later, he would win bike races with little regard for etiquette, tactics, or pain thresholds. Bull ignorance and power were driving him through the boundaries of what should or shouldn't be done on the bike. When he learned of his widespread cancer he treated it in much the same way, something to be obliterated, to be beaten.

If we all went around approaching our daily dilemmas with a bull-headed ignorance, we would just create a lot of hassle for ourselves. No doubt we would sort out a lot of the world's problems that way but there are times when you just have to let things go. Someone annoys you on a bus - e.g. texting with a beep sound just to make sure everyone knows they are texting - you look away, you turn on headphones, you change seats. The Lance approach would probably be to smash the phone. The correct approach would probably be to mention it to the person but people on public transport always seem to carry the potential threat of going psychotic at any moment. Conceding certain situations that are generally out of your control are the best way recipe for a hassle free life. As Kenny Rogers would say "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away and know when to run".

Have had a few setbacks recently that have forced me to reconsider something I have invested myself in over the year. I have sacrificed a lot and pushed myself on a daily basis to attain a place on something I have aspired to for years. Now, as we near the summit, my efforts don't seem to be deemed worthy. Disregard of my efforts would probably be a more accurate description. It has been galling experience laced with anger and frustration. Do I get back on the saddle and drive on blindly ignoring the obvious hoping for a handout? Do I walk out with my head held high knowing I did everything I could? Even as I write this I get the feeling that some people will be experiencing the Lance approach today. All I can do is try to give everything I can where I can ... and maybe one more roll of the dice.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Travel - Where To Next?

Sometimes get an overwhelming desire to drop everything and take off somewhere. Was searching for flights to 'somewhere' just this morning. All the banalities and dreary responsibilities of daily life never seem to matter once you're on that plane. We've had a rainy season instead of a summer this year in Ireland and it's been a while since I have been this static. I have also been behaving far too well of late - it's possibly the dawning of maturity but I suspect I just haven't been given the opportunities to be "a very naughty boy", as they would say on Monty Python.

One of my former holiday destinations, where any form of maturity would be frowned upon, was Ibiza. That was way back in the 90s so don't know what it's like now but some of the closing parties were amazing there at that time. Particularly, Manumission at Privilege. The water parties were fairly class in Es Paradis as well.

(That water goes waist deep!!)

I love going on holidays and be able to indulge in a vibrant night-life but one big night and the whole thing tends to spiral into hedonistic mayhem ending up in a cycle of clubbing / bed / pub / clubbing / and so forth. I found myself being able to have a good balance in most Asian countries (apart from Korea)of being a wholesome tourist by day and up to mischief by night. Think I just might skip the Irish summer next year and see what more Asia has to offer.

A man that knows a thing or two about hedonism, Mr. McGowan.

Thursday 16 August 2007

Food - Oh, What To Eat?

Kathy Foley recently highlighted in her blog something that has annoyed me for quite a while, diet research. She focuses more on diet-related cancer research but it still highlights the conflicting results of many groups.

"Welcome to the topsy-turvy, confusing world of diet-related cancer research. Like a carnival hall of mirrors, it’s a disorientating place where everything is distorted and the most insignificant detail can be grotesquely exaggerated.

In recent years, all of the following have been reported as possible preventions or cures for cancer: beans; broccoli; cabbage; cauliflower; cloudy apple juice (rather than the clear stuff); coffee; curry; garlic; kale; onions; pomegranate juice, shallots; soya milk; tea and tofu.

Unfortunately, many more foods have been the subject of contradictory or conflicting advice. Grapefruit has been promoted as having cancer-fighting properties, unless you’re a post-menopausal woman, in which case eating a quarter of a grapefruit every day could increase your chance of breast cancer by 30%. Coffee drinkers are supposed to be at greater risk of bladder cancer and less risk of liver cancer and colon cancer. Barbecued meat might be carcinogenic but not if you marinade it beforehand."

Ok, it's there are more contentious issues in the world today, but how many conflicting results can you get for the benefits, or the toxic effects, of coffee? "Coffee wards off colon cancer", "Coffee may delay effects of Alzhemiers in older women", "Expresso binge lands teenager in hospital", "Coffee's health risk may be gentic" are all headlines which have appeared recently with newspapers and radio shows lapping up these paper/air fillers. My mother seems to tailor her coffee consumption around these never ending developments with the chances of me getting a decent coffee when I call round varying accordingly.

Research into a cure for cancer is vital, yes, but we are living far too long these days not to enjoy something like a cup of coffee every day. Although, children try to pack as many Es (the additive kind) and sugar into their systems they haven't quite attained the knowledge and practice at poisoning their systems as adults. And they still get cancer. Jez, sort the kids out first. A cure for one adult would probably fail miserably in the system of another adult who has happily poisoned themselves over the years.

Luckily, my sisters have a good attitude to eating healthily so I don't have to hear too much about the latest diet fads but I'm still amazed how this industry always seems to come up with some pseudo science and a 'new' solution to being thin (which doesn't mean you're healthy).

Surely, there should be just a few maxims to follow for healthy eating/drinking. I'm no expert but I try to follow these;

· Eat till you feel satisfied, not till the plate/pot is empty.

· Buy fresh and learn to cook.

· If it comes in a box, don't eat it.

· Have last meal at least 4 hours before you go to bed.

· 6 decent meals a day is actually better than 3 big meals.

· Meals should be getting smaller as the day goes on. Reduce meat and white bread after 4 ‘O clockish.

· Eat fruit and vegetables everyday.

· Cooked veg should be crunchy.

· Eat fish at least once a week. Irish are very bad for the fish consumption. Probably something to do with “Catholic fasting = fish” in the past, or else because they smell. (Loving the mackerel at the moment, cheap out as well – marinade 15 mins in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and herbs / grill on foil, 5 mins each side / Bingo!)

· Drink enough water (*warning* unpleasant indicator -urine should be clear).

· 1 * pig-out / session / drug binge = 2 * workout. Like alleviating your carbon footprint, those 8 pints of stout and curry chips mean you have to backtrack on the double.

· When you do inevitably choose to partake in at least one of the above, enjoy your choice. Don’t feel guilty, but don’t do it just for the sake it either i.e. dvd night doesn’t mean you have to drink Miller and order a double cheese pepperoni pizza.

· Drink milk.

· Better moderate the coffee consumption as well, not like this lúdramáin.

Can't think of any more. Anyone else got any healthy eating tips?

Monday 13 August 2007

Music - Songs That Remind Me Of

A family holiday on the west coast of France when I was about 15. I was designated navigator and took full control of the radio for the journey. This group, Alliance Ethnik, were popular at the time and I think this was their first big hit, Respect.

France is the biggest market for rap after the States and I think the language is well suited to this genre, whereas rap often seems very forced in some other languages. The group's 5 members all come from different ethnic backgrounds, including Algeria,Italy and the Congo, with an American singer for the English lyrics. Their music is generally upbeat, back boned with funky beats and positive messages.
Simple et Funky

Honesty et Jalousie

Listening to these songs again remind me of upside-down maps, a few wrong turns, asking directions in broken French but with enough Atlantic sun to make it all seem all right.

Thursday 9 August 2007

Daily Life - American Overheard

Started re-reading some of the quotes on the site recently and while the site seems to be rather hit and miss the book has sold fairly well in Ireland. Had to wade through a lot of quotes regurgitated from old jokes to find any mildly funny ones on the site (these are best read in a broad Dublin accent):

If you want a job done right...
Last night, saw these kids on bikes messing around and narrowly avoiding the traffic. Then their Da shouts "Stop it...if I want ye in hospital, I'll kick your heads in meself!"

I was at an ATM one day in Abbey Street and there was a few people ahead of me. The woman at the machine was taking her time while we waited in the rain. Next thing a skanger in the queue says “Aw here luv, are ya on da bleedin’ internet or wat?”

I don't think the quotes above are very representative of the street wit you can get in Ireland, particularly in Dublin, but there are always a few gems to be heard if you listen closely enough. Any ones come to mind?

Eavesdropping on what seems like an interesting conversation between Irish people in a public area can be a difficult task with the male habit of talking shoulder to shoulder and female habit of speaking in hushed tones with their hands in the special "We're telling secrets" pose. Throw the Irish brogue into the equation and it's nigh on impossible.

Maybe one shouldn't be listening to other peoples' conversations but if ever you have spent time on a Irish public bus with an mp3 player that has no earphones, a dead phone, no newspaper and a hangover you would too. Bus Eireann also seem to have mastered the art of having the radio at just the right volume so you can hear that someone is talking/singing but not make out any of it. Well, it was on such a day a while back that I found myself eavesdropping on an Irish passenger listening to and answering the questions of an attractive American backpacker... from 7 seats away. What bliss was this!

No one beats the Americans for range, randomness and volume of their quotes. I could sit back and listen to the conversation without having to ask or answer questions or appear interested or decide whether to fill any silences or leave the conversation peter out. Eventually, I found my earphones and could easily tune in and out of the conversation like a cheap soap opera.

American conversations are like listening to surround sound after years of intermittent mono. Walking by Americans in the street is even better as the quotes come thick, loud and fast "It was really spiritual time in my life", "Oooh, Larry says he's feeling gassy after lunch", "Awww, man they were crazy times!". How could a writer be stuck for inspiration when any group of Americans seem to provide a kaleidoscopic view of lives past and present from the surreal to the banal, it's all there... in stereo.
Abre Los Oidos!

Wednesday 8 August 2007

Photography - Who do you look like?

With my renewed interest in photography, I decided to try the face recognition program on after seeing something about it on TV last night. As far as I know, the program calculates the various dimensions on your face such as space between eyes, forehead, cheeks etc and tries to match them with someone famous. I don't think I particularly look like anyone famous. When I was in Asia, natives had me down as a lookalike for Keanu Reeves or Nicholas Cage. I reckoned if people could get me so badly wrong then a free computer program would hardly do any better. It did.

First out with a 72% resemblance was Luis Figo, portuguese soccer player. Not bad, I suppose. Talented player, multi-lingual, loaded and has a gorgeous wife. It also recalled a vague memory of a party a few years during a Euro championship when some drunk chanted "Fiigoo00, Fiigoo00" every time I crossed the room.

Next up were Luke Wilson and Alexis Denisof which were a bit off the mark and then it was that gallic specimen of a man, Gerard Depardieu. Ouch. A very talented actor but carries a close resemblance to Shrek. Maybe this was some sort of karmic punishment for myself and a buddy drunkenly singing the chorus to "You're Beautiful" when we saw a James Blunt lookalike in a pub last week.

The last celebrity bearing any resemblance to my chevy chase was Mark Feehily, gay member of Irish boy band Westlife. A family member had declared this resemblance for years. Will be keeping this latest piece of evidence to myself methinks. As Irish crooner Joe Dolan would say "Oh me, oh my, you're such a ...".

Thursday 2 August 2007

Art - Sports Photography

I wrote last week about how I found it so easy to appreciate photography. A good photo, like any piece of good art, will make an impression that will resonate for long after its first viewing. I have never needed to know where it's from, what it's about, or who took it to appreciate its brilliance. Nonetheless, some sports photos can make an even greater initial impression. This genre of photography is definitely more subjective. Captures of a classic sporting moment will resonate far deeper with someone who is aware of its background. Sports photos can create an instant rapport, a yearning for that frozen moment in time which still reverberates in the now.

When I was younger, I would read all I could about Muhammad Ali. I had a poster of this photo below on my bedroom wall.

Visually, the photo is stunning. The colours and shadows are subtly balanced and the two boxers are positioned so perfectly you would think it was posed. The image encapsulates so much about Ali - his strength, braggadocio, beauty, power. He is so utterly dominant over Liston who is floored and submissive. The crowd seem relatively emotionless and the surrounding darkness refocus your attention on centre stage - on Ali.

Despite its naked brutality, boxing seems to be the most photogenic and cinematic of all sports.

And no better subject than Ali.

The Irish sport of hurling also lends to striking images.

Ballet- Irish Style by Johnew on