Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Today I unpacked some books which I brought to my new house from my mum's and started to look through what I'd been using as bookmarks at the time of reading them. It provides a neat little personal/social history.

  • A fiery furnaces sticker given to me by the band the night my band opened for them.
  • A letter from a nun, who was my boss at the time.
  • A boarding card for a flight to Gatwick.
  • A boarding card for a flight to Paris.
  • A boarding card for a flight from New Orleans to Miami.
  • A university reference for an ex-student called Briege Nugent.
  • An essay I clearly never marked by a student called Clare McKenna (not very good).
  • A ticket for a Fugazi show in Dublin.
  • A ticket for a Ted Leo show in Dublin on the night I kissed my girlfriend for the first time and met my friend Jonathan with a puffy eye.
  • A "pass" allowing me to enter an old friend's younger brother's tree house.
  • A flyer for a quack quack/clone quartet/selah gig.
  • A receipt from the bookshop at NYU.
  • A picture of Steinbeck (in a book by Steinbeck).
  • A restaurant bill in French.
  • A restaurant bill in Spanish (from Argentina, I think).
  • A receipt for coffee, cigarettes and magazines from a newsagents in New York.
  • A random, unidentified phone number.
  • A ticket for the squid and the whale, which I went to with Tanya.
  • A post-it saying "Please file these Barry, Bernie".
  • A letter which reads... Dear Teacher, Jenny was very sick this morning with severe stomach pains and vomiting. This is the reason she was a little late for school. Please allow Jenny to use the bathroom if she asks.
I genuinely can't wait to get the rest and start unpacking them.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Just hangin'

Here's me and my main man T just hangin' outside the Flight of the Conchords show at Radio City Music Hall.

If you look closely, I think he's saying... "Help! There's a freak with a furry hood grinning manically right beside me!"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Deerhunter. The Black Box, Belfast.

The leap in quality Deerhunter achieved between cryptograms and micrecastle was nothing short of massive. Where before there was a density that verged on impenetrable there is now a lightness which draws the listener in and leaves them craving the next pop hook and wave of noise.

The last time I saw them play (in Vicar St, Dublin) was also a less than satisfying show. Main man, Bradford Cox looked troubled. His often talked about mixture of illness and insecurity was the main player and overshadowed a band which seemed intent on staying in the shadows, allowing the discomfort levels to rise. Hard to listen to and disturbingly hard to watch.

A year later and with a stunning new record to promote, this is a very different band. The four players seem relaxed and drawing from the energy of an enthusiastic crowd they play a blinder. The upbeat set is filled with highlights and even a couple of potential hits. And whereas the sound in Dublin swirled around and up in to the ceiling to be lost on everyone but the most committed listener, tonight the sound was direct, focused and thrillingly, unashamedly POP!

Before the show I had intended to visit Belfast's  stunning new Mexican eatery, Boojum. Time defeated me though and dinner took a somewhat more disturbing direction. See above for evidence of Quorn "chicken style" burger with two slices of pan bread and a dollop of mayo.

 You know... It was perfectly pleasant!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reflections on some revolutions through veggie burgers.

Apologies to Edmund Burke for the title of the post but we all know that if there's one thing the French, Argentines and Irish have in common it's a taste for protest and rebellion.
But do they have a taste for veggie burgers... Not so much!

The photos relate to Bio Solo Organico in Humbolt, Buenos Aries, Le Potager du Marias, Paris and a stinking van in a stinking field, Oxygen festival, Ireland.

Isn't it strange how the French and Argentine veggie burger are so similar? They've taken the cheese slice to its illogical extreme and liquefied it! Both restaurants were great places with totally veggie menus in nice parts of town. I just wouldn't necessarily go for the veggie burger again.

Isn't it strange how my mouth looks like it's going to fit round a burger of such proportion? Not really if you know me.

Take care everyone.

What's that noise?

Anyone for Deerhunter in Belfast tomorrow night or off to Primavera next week for My Bloody Valentine or ever considering going to a gig in the Menagerie?

You might want to take some advice from Jack Straw and Peter Stringfellow!

More Politics

I promise there will be (to mis-quote the talking heads) more posts about burgers and rock in the very near future but some more political musings for now.
It seems that opinion is split into two camps regarding the resignation of Speaker Martin. There are those who believe the man is rotten to the core. Unable to effectively do his job, he stood in the way of progress and reform and did not represent the interests of the people in Parliament. Diametrically opposed, there are those who seem to believe his removal is a classist or even sectarian conspiracy conceived, brought to term and hatched through the couplings of the Daily Telegraph and the Tories.
There's a lot of talk about the elitist and out of touch culture of Parliament but really the whole incident is better understood by looking at the culture of Michael Martin the man. His background is infused with a set of values alien to many of his contemporaries in Parliament and to political commentators. Can we rally blame him for acting like a shop steward when that's the context in which he gained his political awakening and opportunities?
There is no precedent for the Speaker to represent the people (that's what MPs are supposed to do). Martin, it seems, was protecting the interests of those he felt he represented, namely the "commoners" who have been elected to Parliament.

It seems that at last week's Cabinet meeting the possibility of convening a full constitutional convention was raised. Great idea. More devolution, fixed terms for parliament, a fully elected second chamber, changes to the electoral system and (of course) more transparency would all make democracy stronger and would encourage people to engage with politics when it is issues rather than people who are hitting the headlines.

Finally, now seems like a good time to reassess the resignation of Elizabeth Filkin. While it didn't have the same constitutional significance as recent events, it could be interpreted as much more damaging to the value of Parliament. Would the current scandal have even arose if she was allowed to do her job properly?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Speaker Martin

Very swift update.

The Michael Martin affair has become really interesting. I think the constitutional significance of the actual resignation is being over played. Again, there are more significant constitutional issues which haven't been addressed properly since New Labour came to power. Obviously, I'm primarily thinking of the second chamber. But in the drama vacuum left by Martin's simple and dignified resignation lots of political commentators are trying to fill it with bizarre hyperbole.

General election? Probably a good idea. But there's a real danger of some crazy celebocracy arising. I mean, Esther bloody Rantzen!

Ch, ch, changes!!!

Hey all,
It's been over a year since my last post. I'm pretty sure I'm writing to no one by now. But, I guess, that puts me in the same category as 99% of all blogs. But why do people write blogs? I feel I mostly did it to document a very happy time in my life. Things were so good I wanted to express it in an almost tangible way. Something that people could see and I could look back on.
A lot has changed in the past year. I live back in Belfast. I am, once again, a teacher of Politics and Sociology. And I'm not as happy as I was.
I have potential posts stored in my memory from Argentina, Paris, Brussels and, of course, Ireland. None of those burgers were particularly good but some of the places were cool and had pretty substantive veggie menus.
Politics is depressing me a little at the minute. I don't like that people only want to talk to the Politics teacher in school when gossip, rumour and scandal are at the front of people's minds. There are more important issues and they still need dealt with. Obama has been underwhelming but the ideological battle brewing in France is intriguing with the NPA getting some headlines. I do like a bit of an old fashioned left-right struggle. I'm getting a lot of good US news from the NPR website. Highly recommended.
I've seen some great bands recently. Health made an incredible noise as did Mi Ami. Morrissey was too rock but played some great tunes. Jeffrey Lewis was funny and touching but almost overshadowed by the support, Peter Broderick. And something else... When I was a kid I saw Nirvana play a few times. The best of these was in the King's Hall in Belfast. That night the two support bands were the breeders and teenage fanclub. Sixteen years later I saw both these bands within a fortnight of each other. Teenage fanclub remain lovely. I could have sung along all night. Not really an important band but a delight to see. The breeders are important. Each one of their four albums is filled with ideas, experimentation, challenges and sweet, sweet, pop hooks. Last night, in Dublin, they played songs from all these records with humour and charm and intensity and passion. First rate!
I'll be back on Friday. Thursday night brings deerhunter to Belfast for the first time and I'm gonna visit the very fine Mexican eatery, Boojum. I'll let you know how they both were.