Tuesday 22 April 2008

Travel - France and Asia beckon

Have a short break in France coming up, which is a country I haven't visited in a few years. It's a work related week but will no doubt sample as much of the culture as I can. Have been sharpening up the French conversational skills and looking forward to quaffing some nice wine (although as a lover of scotch and black coffee I can only aspire to be a "tolerant" taster of wine, think I read somewhere that Asian women can be most naturally sensitive). Asia in on the summer horizon and the day I booked the tickets it has changed how I have approached the following days and weeks. I seem to be more energised and focused as I plan ahead. I've been busy (building up to excuse for lack of blog entries here)but rarely tired. As the evenings have got brighter, I have become more invigorated and any slow mornings or long days have been lightened by the prospect of balmy beaches, swirling landscapes and exotic tastes and sounds. The blogging may have slackened but I'm sure the next few weeks and months will entail that will last long in the memory.

Monday 31 March 2008

Travel - Leber, Las Fallas and another crack at Barcelona

What a week, what a country. Headed off to Barcelona again last week, promptly engaged in some mischief in the catalunyan capital before taking off down to Valencia for Las Fallas. This week long festival nearly brought me to my knees. Firecrackers, fireworks and actual fires combine for some heavily paganistic overtones in this holiest of weeks. In truth, it was a great few days with young and old mixing on generally trouble free streets without the slighest intention of doing anything during the week other than eat, drink and burst my eardrums. Our hungover and weary heads were greatly comforted along the 3 hour train journey to Valencia with our panoramic views from the train cafeteria, nursing a beer, and appreciating the orange groves, terraced hills and glistening seas unfolding in front of us. Spain, and its many regions, never fail to disappoint and I think it will be a long time yet before I grow even remotely tired of what it has to offer.

(More photos and shenanigans on the week to follow)

Sunday 9 March 2008

What I'm listening to right now - Voices to cry for

I've never been bothered by song lyrics. I admire and appreciate them but feel the power of music comes from the sound and emotions created. Bad lyrics or empty words will never make a great song but I don't think the use of one word over another can curtail the power of the truly great song.

I love voices. I love accents. I love the vocal intricacies that they entail. I love the voices that sound like they are only singing to you. Loving this singer at the moment, Luan Parle. Had caught the end of her songs several times before finding out who she was. Shes sings a great vesion of this song as gaelige as well -'Ghost' (Would love to hear this one 'live')

'Live' version of 'Free'.

Robyn unfortunately chose to release the awful, upbeat version of this song. This one has a beautifully, restrained power (could do without the psychedelics though)

Bono could be singing about house prices in Dublin here and it would still raise those lickle neck hairs.

(you didn't think he'd be able to do that, did you?)

Nick Cave on the other hand is a master word smith. Anyone that can get I don't believe in an interventionist God But I know darling that you do deserves some kudos (Ignore vid)

Any other suggestions out there?

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Shining through in Sport - Holy smokes, Joe!

There are certain times in sports when moments or a series of moments conspire to enthrall all those involved. People with any appreciation of sport can bask in these moments of history unfolding before their very eyes. These are moments that leave a glow for their privileged viewers for many days and years after. Some of these include:

Cork V Waterford 2004 Munster Final

Real fans applaud Barcelona's 3-0 winning performance in Bernabeu

Michael Jordan's 63 against the Celts

Can't think of too many other ones for the moment. Munster have a few, Keane V Juventus in Champions League Semi-Final, Paul McGrath V Italy in 1994 World Cup. Haven't been privy to too many of these days, but I was last week.

Report from Hurling Blog
"WIT have won an incredible Fitzgibbon cup final after 2 periods of extra time. It finished WIT 1-29 LIT 1-24.

Level at full time, level after extra time 10 minutes each half (0-25 to 1-22) and then into another extra time of 5 minutes each side. WIT had to equalize twice to force the first and second extra times and they were a point behind going into the final period of 5 minutes. Then they hit an incredible purple patch spurred by an Eoin Reid goal. They also needed two incredible one on one saves by keeper Adrian Power to keep then in it, one a full length reflex save, the other smothering a forward".

An incredible haul of 1-16 still didn't reap the deserved rewards for the gifted Joe Canning. His 4 sideline cuts was a feat that is akin to 2 holes in 1 in a round of golf or 4 goals from outside the box in soccer. What conventionally gifted players can only manage once or twice in game he did 4 times from incredible distances , including one on the stroke of full time which would have sunk lesser teams. Anyone not fluent in Irish will still be able to make out the word 'privileged' around 1:45

There were times when the crowd were almost giddy in anticipation every time he stepped up to hit a free, including 2 100-yarders out on the wing, or a sideline cut. Not to be outdone was the WIT net minder who showed incredible levels of bravery and telepathy to pull this save off late in the game.

Individual performances shining out from the crowd will always be what inspires and delights. Right, got to get practicing on those cuts.

Go and Do it

Tsk,tsk - only just into March and I've already broken my 1 post a week resolution. Have had a busy week or two but not really a major target to be hitting. Is it? Have an awful habit of discussing whether or not I should do something which normally does nothing but make it harder to get the something done. This internal dialogue might happen when debating the merits of getting one's lazy ass out of bed or lolling back for just one more snooze. Another instance might be deciding between aimlessly reading mails, other blogs etc., or writing my own. I've spoken before about always getting more things done when I'm busier, as I've less time to think and have no other times to allot a convenient postponement. 'Go and do it' seems to be the way to go. Might be a bit simplistic but thats all I gots for now folks.

Monday 25 February 2008

My workout at the moment is...

Gym sessions have been a bit sporadic so far this year. Have let my gym membership go as it was far too expensive (nearly 700 euros). The gym was really poor (max 10kg dumbbells, no bench press) so was just using it for the pool and sauna. Any session are now conducted in the garage which allows me to have a varied, and at times an eccentric workout). My main goal is keep in shape which improving my core strength, flexibility, burn a few calories and maintain strength. Building size or gains is not a priority as during the summer I will not have to access to a gym and will be restricted to bodyweight exercises.

Usually start off with a good dynamic warm-up with a good bit of skipping (the best way to warm up or down). Try to do at least 600 reps(have a counter on the rope) with varied speeds. Unfortunately, I'm nowhere near this guy.

Next up, Bench press 3*6 reps - only managing 50 kgs at the moment, but more than will not increase it too much more as it wouldn't lead to a balanced workout.

Any strength exercises are punctuated with various core and ab exercises.

Chin-ups (done properly) 3*7

A few more ab, back and flexibility exercises.
Captains Chair

Hamstring curl (best exercise there is for the hammers i reckon)

Pull-ups 3*4 (wide grip for the back)

Next, I start getting a little rowdy with all sorts of medicine ball slams and ab work.(Manage to keep my shirt on though)

Tricep dips using 2 chairs

Exericises to add
Generally not doing too much work on the legs at the moment, but will add tuck jumps 3*7 but would ultimately love to able to do single leg squats - a brilliantly simple but tough exercise

Hanging leg raises

Well, all I need to do now is just go and do it

Thursday 21 February 2008

Oh, Canada!

What's with those Canadians and their swirling, uplifting gems of perfect indie pop these days. Whatever it is, I'm loving it.

Stars - In our bedroom after the war (lovely stuff altogether)

(pity about a few people nattering away at the start)

Stars - The night starts here

Stars - Your ex-lover is dead

Obviously, Canada is a huge country but there is definitely a particular genre of music that many people would associate with it at the moment. Bristol was famous for producing a distinctive type of music a few years back with groups like Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead among others.

The start of this track hints at a song of understated, melancholic briliance.
The New Pornographers - Challengers

Sunset Rubdown

Friday 15 February 2008

What I'm Reading at the Moment - Messages

Blogging can provide an insight into the lives of so many people from such a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Yet, I don't think paper or books will ever be bettered in their appeal to people. Holding a weathered hardback complete with a musty odour doesn't warrant comparing with a whirring laptop. I love books. I'm a hoarder of books. I hate to give them away yet love to lend a favourite one to friends. Second-hand books are particularly appealing, especially if they have little notes or message held within. One of the first novels I read was "A Town called Alice" by Nevil Shute. Inside the front cover was the message "To Annie- for being there when I needed you most, Phillip". It was written in a beautiful, cursive reminiscent of another time when handwriting was a skill that mattered and impressed. Those short few words contained infinite possibilities for me. Who were these people? Did any of the characters in the book reflect these people? What had brought Phillip to write this message?

Recently, I stumbled on some site containing some voyeuristic gems that could inspire a thousand different in a thousand different people. Found magazine is a collection of found notes, napkins, letters, lists etc. Today's one is an inky post-it with the message "Thank you for defending my honor last night". Gold. Others are achingly real.

Another site, Post Secret allows people to do exactly that - post their secrets. Some hardy Valentine reality contained within.

I'd imagine for any writer grasping for inspiration would find plenty fodder between these sites.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Music - Cathy Davey

Recently listened to Jack Johnson's latest album. Very disappointing fare. Each song seems to be just a pleasant, unremarkable melody no different to the next one. I suppose many people would have said this of his earlier stuff but he just seems to be churning out safe, formulaic tunes neither likely to be loved or hated. One of the better ones is "Angel".

(Even as I listen to it again it just seems bland)

Cathey Davey is one of the many Irish singer-songwriters out there at the moment, but she manages to be distinctive enough in a crowded genre.

Sing for you Supper (live)

Cold Man's Nightmare

All of You

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Clubbing - Turnmills, London

Made my maiden voyage to this famous, London club last week. What a place! A vast labyrinth of rooms spread over 2 floors(I think) that provided room after room of house music. To be honest, I was no more able to navigate the venue after 6 hours hours there than when I arrived. The crowd were generally friendly with the usual London mix of nationalities, although the majority seemed to be white and in their mid/late 20s. The tunes were provided by Smartie Partie on the night with some serious cheese thrown in at different stages with a remix of Toca Me by Fragma (big hit in Summer of '99) getting an early airing.

By the end of the night, I had well and truly embraced the cheese though which definitely helped buoy the crowd as the night pushed into morning. Particularly loved a reworking of an old house classic, shown here from Melbourne.

Overall, a great night - no queues for drinks, jackets, toilets - and even though they were closing off rooms at 630am a few more were still rocking. London is seriously pricey place but I always have a great night there. So glad I got to see Turnmills before it closes down for good in a few weeks.

Friday 8 February 2008

What I'm Listening to at the Moment

Loving this hairy man's lazy manner with a guitar and a song.

Sharing my love with some of these funky house mixes that often start off a little too shlow and shekshey but build up brilliantly. Quality going out tunes.

What I'm reading at the moment

Generally, I read one light book and one heavy book at a time. At the moment, I'm reading a distinctly Irish book based on the D4 Celtic cubs (basically Dublin yuppies). The biting humour and some hilarious expression keep the parody from flagging. It's requires minimal brain power and certainly provides a few chuckles. I also started reading "Driving over Lemons" which is about a English couple who up sticks and move to a remote part of Andalusia in Southern Spain as I'm heading there for 'Semana Santa'

Have to confess, lately I've been dabbling with a few self-help type. Now, I'm not reading "The Secret" or "How to - be rich/get laid/be YOU!" yet but definitely wouldn't have considered some of my chosen material a few years ago. One of them is 'The Power of Now'
which is heavy going at times but has some interesting concepts. Perusing some other materials as well,which are often laden with that beaming, starry-eyed, manic psychobabble so popular with caffeine propelled guests on American chat shows. Some of them do contain some interesting elements but I think one could languish in self-analysis without ever really progressing. Doing the best you can right now is probably the way to go folks. Mr. Paulo Coelho phrased it well in that gem of a book 'The Alchemist'.

The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity

En el presente es donde está el secreto; si quieres prestar atención al presente, podrás mejorarlo. Y si mejoras el presente, lo que sucederá después también será mejor.

Thursday 7 February 2008

La Independencia

Wrote this a while back when I was in Guatemala. Probably full of mistakes but might try to start writing again a bit in spanish.

Por lo tanto, pienso que soy un varón bastante independiente. Cuando tengo problemas personales prefiero resolverlos por mi mismo. También, no me gusta compartirlos con amigos. Para mí, no hay punto a discutir un problema para la meta de solo compartirlo. Es por eso que me gusta viajar. Casi todos las decisiones son míos juntos con los errores, pero todo son míos.

El viernes pasado, me di cuenta que a veces mi independencia no es tan profunda. Bebí casi una botella de ron con mi familia huésped. Ellos me tratan como uno de la familia. En ese tiempo, me sentí a mis anchas y es todavía sumamente fácil platicar con ellos. Las horas pasaron rápidamente y y dentro de poco era los doce, traté de salir de la casa pero las padres no me permetieron. El padre dijo "No permito que salgas porque ya es demasiado peligroso". Primero pensé que me estaba tomando el pelo pero después me di cuenta que tenia razón. Segundo me di cuenta que quise alguna influencia o control. Ya no sé porque.

Normalmente nos gustan las cosas que nos influyen. Sin influencias no podemos crecer. Nos quedaríamos en lo mismo para siempre.
Por lo tanto, pienso que soy un varón bastante independiente. Cuando tengo problemas personales prefiero resolverlos por mi mismo. También, no me gusta compartirlos con amigos. Para mí, no hay punto a discutir un problema para la meta de solo compartirlo. Es por eso que me gusta viajar. Casi todos las decisiones son míos juntos con los errores, pero todo son míos.

El viernes pasado, me di cuenta que a veces mi independencia no es tan profunda. Bebí casi una botella de ron con mi familia hues

Friday 1 February 2008

Resolutions II

Managed to write another entry within a week - these resolutions must be working!

Anyone reading this blog must think that I am obsessed with goals, plans and purposes when in fact I'm just far too 'floaty'. Without a tangible framework to guide and motivate me, I tend to drift aimlessly feeling an underlying guilt for some unknown path I could and should be taking. So let me be my little anal self...

  1. Continue to widen my social circles. Normally very good at this but definitely far less opportunity for meeting a range of people where I live. Easy to continually hang out with the same people similar to your own background, culture and interests. Always loved that Anais Nin quote "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born", which best encapsulates that notion that each new friends awakens something different inside you.
  2. Trust my instincts. I think I have built up enough life experience at this stage to trust the nagging impulses that urge me to act. I have often suppressed these telling signs to suit other people around me or whatever conventions a social situation may dictate. This could mean chatting to someone while you wait for a bus/ lift. I don't think I've ever regretted a few idle words with a stranger, but have often regretted not speaking to someone. Telling the truth more ( i.e. less white lies, being more direct). I've sometimes been picky with the truth to suit myself or others. Shielding the truth from people, and oneself, generally leads to a pickle of some sort later on.

Monday 28 January 2008

So what next? - New Year Resolutions

'Fraid I'm one of those people that needs lists to get anything done. I'm a very disorganised little boy and need structure to get things done. Things that need to be done, pop into my head every so often and remain hanging heavy and just out of reach until they get to crisis point. I also take an inadequate amount of perverse pleasure in crossing off items on the list.

My focus also deviates quite considerably every so often and needs some determined realigning. So, have decided to recalibrate things a little. Many of these are only coming to mind as I type, so are in no particular order.

  1. Weekly blog entries. The classic blogger new year aspiration, but shouldn't be too hard.Should it?
  2. Sharpen up the ol' French and Spanish. Strange how I am so much more comfortable speaking Spanish than French, despite having learned it for 8 years less.
  3. Think long-term. Happy the way things are panning out at the moment, but need to consider what is the best means of achieving my ultimate goal in life - to travel. Perpetual Travel. Korean people often have a 5 year plan. 6 months is usually my max, but have to realistically look ahead to carve out the life I truly want.
  4. Learn to enjoy sober social situations a bit more. Have become better at this but reckon I can't manage much longer than a sober 3 hours at the moment in a pub/nightclub situation without getting tired, bored or boring.
  5. Choose when to drink. Have had too many drunken nights and hungover days for no apparent reason apart from the fact it was Saturday/ a birthday / a party etc. Don't feel guilty anymore when I have a big night as I generally choose the night and make sure it's just a small part of a great night. Just want to ensure that I maintain that sense of control and avoid situations where it is the focal point of the night.
Will add to these again(in less than a week!)