Saturday, May 31, 2008

Part of the Cat Crew

Being a Kilkenny man it was only fitting that I take my own recommendation and volunteer for this year's Cat Laughs Festival in Kilkenny.

If you happen to be around Kilkenny this weekend, keep an eye out for the volunteers in their fetching blue t-shirts - they'll be more than happy to help if they can. Headed up by wonderwoman herself Trish Duffe, there's friendly people at every venue.

I have to admit it's the first time I've been in Kilkenny for the Festival for a few years and the place looks great. The buzz and atmosphere in the town is one of enthusiasm, humour and people who - pardon the pun - are out to have a laugh. The massive queue for yesterday's train is a testament to the draw of the Festival.

I'm full of admiration for anyone who can get up in front of an audience armed only with a sharp wit, keen observation and enough charisma and courage to keep an audience laughing along. And last night they certainly did that.

I have the great pleasure of working in the Rivercourt Hotel, where last night we had on the bill:

  • Compére, host and extremely funny man Ian Coppinger from Dublin

  • The outrageously camp, leather kilt wearing hilarious Craig Hill from Glasgow

  • Geeky just-out-of-high-school and first time to Ireland Josh Thomas from Australia

  • and the ever likable, most popular and tear inducing comedian Neil Delamere
It's funny (not ha ha) but I was incredibly shy last night. Granted I was busy with the volunteering (yes I was!) but I found it difficult to go and say hello to some of them, to ask for a photo or to be so bold as to bother them for an interview. I can only imagine how difficult getting up there must be, the mental preparation, the stress and the come down.

I've spotted Ed Byrne, Kevin Gildea, Matt Kirshen and Andy Parsons all out and about. Tonight I get to work with (ahem) Des Bishop, John Lynn, Maeve Higgins and one of my personal favourites Tommy Tiernan. I'm going to keep an eye out for PJ Gallagher too.

I cannot wait.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I'm 50% bogger - how about you?

Image by Jason Tammemägi

The email I got today very much amused me. A spreadsheet seeing how much of a bogger you are. I'm not at all ashamed of my rural background, but the questions really hit home:

  • Have you seen "Ear to the Ground" more than 3 times?

  • Have you ever heard the death notices on radio?

  • Have you ever used the phrases "Jaysus" "By god" or "Oh Lord"?

  • Should Blackie Connors have got an Oscar?

  • At any stage during the summer can you step out your door and get the smell of freshly spread slurry?

  • Have you ever taken fresh eggs from under a hen?

  • Do you only have RTE1, NET2, TV3 & TG4 or less on your television?
and then my favourites - the real telling ones:
  • If by choice you could marry a local would you do so?

  • Would it be desirable that he/she was an only child to a wealthy farmer?

  • Do you know who Miley is?
and the real real test:
  • Do you ever look up in the sky when you hear a helicopter?
Brilliant! You can download it here (Excel File, 26k) - let me know how you get on. :)

Gay people are not part of Irish Christian Society

One of the things I haven't blogged about, and don't often tell people (any more) is the fact that I studied to be a Catholic priest.

It was eight years ago at this stage, and a lot of things have happened in the meantime. It seems like a different me. And it was.

I'd wanted to be a priest all my life. Like B over at Positive Boredom, I'd had the masses with the teddy bears, I'd use the ice cream wafers as the host and I'd practise homilies, readings and the hymns.

At one stage I was going to all four masses in the local Abbey (a very inspiring building) at the weekend, I'd read at mass, I'd joined the choir and I was an altar server. We had amazing priests in our parish - genuinely good men who cared about their parishioners and who made a definite improvement and contribution to parish life.

I'd always known that my ambition would mark me as "different" and even going to a Catholic Secondary School didn't give me the courage to be open about what I wanted to do. I was singularly focussed on my goal - being a priest, serving God, helping people at the most important parts of their lives - birth, weddings, illnesses, deaths and all the bits in between. I wasn't obsessed with girls (knowing I'd be celibate), I didn't have plans to marry or settle down or have a great life plan except study, be ordained, do what I thought I was meant to.

I went to UCD after a tumultuous Leaving Cert in 1997 and the following year I'd decided that I'd had all the confirmation I'd need that it was the life for me. I joined a missionary order seminary as a postulant, meaning I wasn't a "proper student" but had two years to see if community life was for me. This is slightly different to diocesan priesthood - studying at places like Maynooth or Clonliffe - but I felt it was my calling.

I was 20.

What followed was one of the most eventful and enjoyable times of my life. I woke in the morning and joined the others for prayer. There was a community of about 30 men all at varying stages of their process. We ate together, prayed together, worked together, went to Lés Miserables in the Point together(!) and lived as brothers, as colleagues.

I got very involved in the local Dublin community as well, joining the folk group, reading at mass, arranging liturgies, serving and being "a source of enthusiasm and joy" as I was called.

It was 1999. The abuses of men serving as Catholic priests on the young, the poor, the vulnerable and the too-trusting was just coming to light.

It was a time of concern, of reflection and of hiding for the men who weren't the paedophiles, who weren't the perverts or those taking advantage. The actions of their peers and their superiors forced them to retreat. The heads of the Church were not commenting, not responding, not being open (to their detriment) and those below them, bound by their vow of obedience, had to stay silent. It was no excuse, but it was all they had.

Image taken from here.

Priests left in their droves. In fairness this had been happening anyway - only one other student entered the seminary in my year - but we started to hear more and more about it. For someone like me - outgoing, eager and wanting to show how great it was - the idea of hiding seemed abhorrent, alien and not what it was about. Jesus never hid did he?

At the same time I was studying hard and started reading the alternative texts and views of the Catholic Church. The Da Vinci Code was no shock to me, I'd read most of the books that it was based on (as well as many of the books that those books were based on) years before. Things didn't add up. It wasn't right. This wasn't real.

Eventually I made the decision to leave. It was the happiest day of my mother's life - she had never wanted me there at all. I'd been there almost two years. I'd had amazing opportunities, met some lovely people and made friends, but it wasn't for me.

It was the most difficult decision I've had. Here I was, after hiding my ambition for so many years and then getting to live it only to have to leave it now. The director of students was remarkably open and understanding "Go out, get a job, get a girl, live in the real world. If you want to come back you know where we are." and so I was gone, without a clue what next to do.

Image taken from here.

Over the years more and more has come out about the Catholic Church in Ireland, the abuse cases, the restrictions, the neglect, the taking advantage. The doctrines of the Church were examined and exposed, the historical facts raised. I learned a lot. I drifted away from describing myself as "Roman Catholic" to "Christian" in that I believe that the message of Jesus "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" is as valid as ever.

It's been difficult to leave something I was so passionately involved with behind and I still stay in touch with it from time to time. I am not a regular mass goer, but appreciate an interesting way of communicating a message of tolerance, understanding and love to an audience. I try to do the Christian thing of living a good life, trying to do good things.

That's why this article written by the ever on-the-ball Maman Poulet has me fuming today.

Seriously, who the hell do the "Irish Society for Christian Civilisation" think they are to promote such hatred, such vile inaccuracies and such lies as this absolute pile of festering homophobic propoganda?

I'm not gay but have many gay friends. I have absolutely no problem with anyone's sexual orientation and do not see it as any factor in how they should be dealt with, what rights they have or their place in society. A homosexual couple should be allowed marry, adopt, have the same tax, insurance and couple benefits same as everyone else. They're lucky to be in a couple at all.

And yet here we have this "Christian" society promoting such pearls of wisdom as

As conscientious Irish Catholics, we cannot but say “No” to a Treaty that imposes on our country and on the whole of Europe, for the first instance in an international legally binding document, the prohibition of any discrimination based on sexual orientation, which will in its turn impose on us the placement of children for adoption or foster care in the hands of homosexual partners, the employment of teachers or athletic coaches with homosexual lifestyles, the obligation to grant accommodation to homosexual partners in B&B facilities, etc. and will restrict the freedom of the Church to preach the Gospel.
Let's take that again:
As conscientious Irish Catholics, we cannot but say “No” to ... the prohibition of any discrimination based on sexual orientation

I lament the fact that people in this country - mostly decent people - have views like this thrust on them - views that they will believe because the labels "catholic" and "christian" are attached.

I abhor the fact that freedom of speech means freedom to distribute such hateful "literature" and I feel sorry that the Catholic Church is used to back this up. For an organisation that has such potential to do such good - and for the men and women committed to doing good for same, I feel nothing but pity that this sort of thing is associated.

Following the logic of this "Christian" group, they're supporting an organisation that has subjugated human rights, learnings and sciences and committed some of the worst crimes in humanity all in the name of a simple man who said:
"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone"
I'm sending this article to this "Christian society" - - asking them to explain how they can promote "Christianity" and "Jesus" and still justify their actions in this, a definition of Christian being:
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament
I have yet to see anywhere in The New Testament where Jesus condemns homosexuality.

They do not represent my views as a Christian. Or anyone's that I personally know.

What's your feeling on it?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Getting back into movies

The last film I saw in the cinema, would you believe, was the Preview of Iron Man.

Which by the way was excellent. Darren's review is here. Thumbs up from me too:

Cheesy as anything, me :-P

That's been ages ago.

I love film. I love the medium, I love reading about them, talking about them and the extras on DVDs - happily sit down and go through the entire extras of the extended Lord of the Rings movies.

I registered with MovieExtras ages ago to see what happens on a film set. I collect the monthly Movies Plus magazine, I'm a member of the IFI, I'll check out when I get the chance, worked on the Cinemagic and Darklight Festivals, am a Filmbase member and I have more DVDs than books - and that's saying something!

And yet it's been April 30 since I was in the cinema.

That has to change. I've been over on the wonderful site today and from now on this is going to be my first stop for deciding what I'm going to see. I'm really impressed by how much work has gone into this - the guys behind it obviously know movies and know what they're up to.

They've got competitions, reviews, preview screenings, trailers, interviews, forums ... it's a site I could get lost in for days. They've also got quirky ads:

I'm going to have to start with the coming soon page - and there's a number of ones I want to see:

  • Priceless (Hors de prix) - out June 13 with Audrey Tautou

  • The Incredible Hulk - out the same day with Edward Norton as Bruce Banner.

  • Prince Caspian - from the Chronicles of Narnia - out June 26. Getting rave reviews apparently.

  • Wanted - out June 27 - with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. Has one of my favourite movie quotes of the last while, and delivered in Freeman's voice which makes it all the more powerful:
"It a choice, Wesley, that each of us must face: to remain ordinary, pathetic, beat-down, coasting through a miserable existence, like sheep herded by fate, or you can take control of your own destiny and join us, releasing the caged wolf you have inside. ... This is the decision that lies before you now: the sheep, or the wolf. The choice is yours."
  • The Visitor - out June 27 is also one with a great tagline, making me think it might be worth a watch:
In a world of six billion people, it only takes one to change your life.
Then there's the ones I'm REALLY looking forward to:
  • Wall-E - the new one from Pixar. Cannot wait for 18 July.
And then, then there's The Dark Knight. What can I say about this, really? It's gonna rock. have the official posters here where I got this from:

Roll on July 25!

Of course I'll have to do a review at some stage of it. Won't be as good as Darren, but then again, he was never interviewed on RTE News now, was he?

(You'll need Realplayer for this unfortunately - blink and you'll miss me)

(Thanks to Jazzbiscuit for the embed code!)

I just want to say well done

Two things caught my attention this evening and I'd like to share.

Firstly, as I'm sure you may be aware, Grannymar has become the first winner of the Blog Post of the Month award for her amazing post The Light Went Out.

I can think of no one else (sorry other contenders) who deserved it more and as wisewebwoman commented on Grannymar's blog

You are so deserving and your humility is part of your charm.
AND that was such a powerful blog post.
Secondly, Rick O' Shea has done it again. Not content with creating the wonderful and powerful textsecrets, (now sadly ended) he has now unveiled an amazing project called The Lives of Others.
It... allow[s] the participants to post freely and anonymously on the most intimate subjects in their lives.
In one of the most touching posts over there, the writer shares the real genius around its anonymity, how some people...
don’t get the importance of anonymity, they don’t get the power of a secret told but held.

It is liberating to let out the dark sadness, but not everyone needs to

Equally, others do need to, whether they lack the emotional support network or the comfort of confidence in their friends, this blog offers a space to vent, to share, but not reveal.

Think kindly of the emotionally crippled who limp into daylight here and leave a little of their burden.
When Darren and I started The Faux Sty, a very simple forum over a year ago, we became entranced by how the members began to interact, to share and trust in the forum environment.

I can see a similar thing happening for The Lives of Others. People have a need to share. Textsecrets had shown it. Postsecret shows it. Dear Lover shows it.

Grannymar has shown it.

And it's things like this, like people sharing their stories, their talents and their passion that make this online environment a great place to be.

Well done to you both. :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

John thinks I'm living the life

and he writes about it here.

But as I say, it's only because of the amazing, supportive, funny friends I have, the enthusiasm, passion, creativity, cuteness, style, talent, example and continued encouragement of fellow great drinking buddies and bloggers - old and new - in the blogging community and the great comments I get that helps me do this at all.

So thank you everyone. It's all your fault ;-) And thanks John!

Bad Habits - shocking stuff altogether ;)

Just been sent a link to this by my beautiful friend Emily.

It's a short film she wrote and directed, starring the lovely Emma Cavanagh and Dave Kaczmarczyk.

Beautifully shot, great sound and a simple - if slightly unrealistic* - story.

*I mean seriously, I've NEVER known a nun as pretty as that one!

Well done Emily, really loved it :) It's great to see such quality come from young, talented Irish film makers.

What did you think of it? Just click below to tell us!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BATMAN in Dublin: update to the sunset post

The lovely Red Mum just sent me photos from her wonderful photostream of the sunset captured yesterday evening:

Image by Red Mum taken from here

Amazing eh? Great shots, as per usual. Thank you indeed!

But I have to ask. I'm sorry, but I have to...

Image by Red Mum taken from here

Isn't that BATMAN on the far right? And if so, what is he doing over here? Is this, as Anthony has suggested, PR for the upcoming Dark Knight movie? ;-)

Update: Will Knott has pointed to Superman on the left. Any idea who's in the middle?

Too tall to be the boy wonder and has a cape so not Spiderman... any ideas?

(I'm a cheeky pup I know. Congrats to the young wan on the nomination RM. Great stuff!)

Yesterday's Dublin sunset

When leaving the office yesterday at around 9pm I caught a glimpse of the evening sunset.

It was stunning. Rich red vibrant colours, puffy clouds, streaks of light. I tried capturing it on the cameraphone but failed miserably.

I was hoping some of the photobloggers on Twitter might have caught it, but this morning there was no joy, even though I loved @SineadCochrane's response.

So I'm afraid, for those of you who didn't catch it you're just going to have to make do with these:

I tried capturing it from the Luas window but by the time the camera was ready, the shot was gone.

I MUST get a new camera. Anyone any recommendations for a "see it and shoot it as it happens" device?

Did you see it? Do you have photos of it? Or good camera recommendations? Please let me know!

Thanks Green Ink

I'm genuinely chuffed.

(I've hesitated for a time about posting this because I don't want to appear (even more) boastful, but I've decided to show anyone that is even a bit hesitant about blogging that just giving it a go can be enough.

In my
comment over there I repeat what Grannymar said "Write from the heart, the rest will follow". Any feedback is always welcome (which is why I wrote this post) and coming from someone who puts as much creativity into his work, this comment from Green Ink has put a big happy grin on my face all day. Check out his work. I loved this one.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Having a laugh with PJ Gallagher

PJ Gallagher considers himself a lucky man. Well, in fact what he said to me was "If you're making a living from this remember you're a lucky f**ker."

But we'll come back to that.

Photo taken from here

Probably best known for creating Jake Stevens - a whistler, a slightly dimwitted but enthusiastic and up-for-anything Irish character who recently went to seek fame and fortune in America and for his work on RTE's Naked Camera (running since 2005).

With his impending appearances at this weekend's Smithwick's Cat Laughs Festival (he's doing 6 shows) and fresh from Vicar Street earlier in the month, he's getting praise and new followers all the time.

I sat down with him recently (after I accosted him in a hallway) to talk about comedy. He was open, energetic, warm and friendly - a real pleasure to chat to.

On starting out:

"It's Jason Byrne's fault. I used to work with him in a warehouse and we'd always be slagging and messing. Jason started to get some gigs and saying I should too.

Then one day I'm on Dublin Bus and see his name on an gig poster - and mine after it. I rang him and he said - you've got 6 weeks to prepare 10 minutes, nothing you can do now. So I did it."
He's great friends with with Jason, often appearing with him - they're both managed by Lisa Richards Comedy (their blog is here, hiya John!) and is also a graduate of the Gaiety School of Acting.

On being recognised
"If I got a euro from RTÉ for every time someone whistled at me I'd be very rich indeed. Ah it's always nice to get the people coming up, saying hello, just having the craic. Luckily enough I haven't had any mad experiences."

On the internet
"Ah I'm mad into MySpace. Love it. (PJ's MySpace is here) Just love taking to people. I don't get onto it that much but it's a great way of getting feedback and seeing what's going on.
However someone has a profile for Jake on Bebo - it's not me but it's very good - so good that some of me own mates message me on it and are then surprised I don't get back to them. He's a genuine fake, doing a great job.
It's a pity though when you see stuff you're only working out up on YouTube. Some of the shows aren't as good as they could be. I don't mind the Naked Camera stuff but I'd hate to think that based on some mobile phone video that the show wasn't going to be good."

On doing gigs
"Ah it's a great laugh. It all depends on how well organised the gig is and the mood of the people but you can have great fun with the audience. You never do the same gig twice - the show evolves with the people and how different it can go. It takes preparation but the fun is worth it."

On Kilkenny
"The Cat Laughs is great. For me it's the festival. Always so much on, such great comedians and a great atmosphere. A real place where you can try stuff, you can have fun and get to meet other great comedians. Deadly fun altogether."
On Americans
"They're so polite. You could walk up to an Irish person and say "I lost my monkey" and they'd be like "Jesus, that's terrible! The poor monkey! Where did you leave it and what was it wearing when you saw it?" whereas the Americans would be completely dead-pan "I'm very sorry to hear that sir". A huge difference. I really enjoyed the time over there though."
On advising people thinking of starting in comedy:
"Most importantly don't fill yourself full of shit. It's a tough job and you've got to be polite with the people you're working with, with the fans and to remember to thank everyone.

Remember that if you do succeed to make a living you're a lucky fucker - many have tried. Keep positive though and believing in yourself without being cocky and you should be fine. Most of all enjoy it."

PJ mentions his support of the ISPCC's Childline. He heads off to do a great gig for Vodafone Bright New Sounds and then after borrowing sellotape to fix a light on his Honda Fireblade (true story) heads off, stopping to take time and pictures with his fans and supporters.

A genuinely nice guy, and a great person to have a laugh with. I'm looking forward to seeing him at the weekend.

PJ's page on the Lisa Richards Comedy Night has his upcoming gigs. Check it out.

Quite yum actually

Saturday afternoon dining:

I've had them before. They were tasty. Quite garlicky and herby. Mmmm.

Not sure which would put you off your food more - the snails or me :-P

Sneak preview of posts to come

Yes that is my finger. Holding on to the phone for dear life.

Needless to say, we had fun and lots of it. Bore you with more of it later.

Nemi's back!

Hurrah! Opening my Metro this morning I see they've finally brought back Nemi, probably my favourite newspaper comic strip.

I've missed her.

Is it wrong that I think that she's hot?

Nemi is drawn by Lisa Mhyre, a Norwegian who started the strip in 1997.

Most interesting facts about her:

She was named after Lake Nemi and Inigo Montoya, a character in Lise Myhre's favourite film, The Princess Bride.