Friday, 28 September 2007

Road Rage [or BMW drivers suck]

Every once in a while our the media comes up with buzzwords to try and help define a cultural phenomena. Road Rage is one such term.

After working late last night for the climax of a software release, I got out an hour early and made the mad dash across the city. I was in a good mood, and excited about my weekend.

On reaching a completely gridlocked Lisburn Road, I even did my charitable act, of let a guy in a 206 pull in from the left lane- he was gonna be caught in behind a load of parked cars, and I wasn't really moving forward at the time.

My rule for stuff like this is you let one person in, and then you move on. I think thats fair - I mean if I were to sit and let a couple or three people in infront of me all of the people behind me are going to want to kill me..

All was fine until the guy behind Mr 206 tried to force his way into the lane infront of me (I could make some cheap comment about the fact that he was a BMW driver, but I'm really too classy for that..)

There wasnt any space for him to move into, but he spent the next 20 yards driving further into my lane, and forcing me to pull ever closer to the traffic coming the other way. (I think this was as close to collision as I've been infact). I was livid. I can't really describe my reactions as rational at all- I didn't turn and give him a dirty look or beep my horn to let him know of the impending collision.

Instead I became that guy you see on TV that you never really want to be - trying to win an unwinnable arguement with a guy by shouting out a window.

To cut a long story short the guy rolled down his window and did refer to me as "young
man", which at this point was a red rag to a bull. My window went down and I told him in no certain terms that this was my lane, and that he couldn't just drive me off the road [with more shouting and the use of the term 'Old Man' to counteract his patronising me...]

In the end I took a deep breath and a step back and let him in because he was being ridiculous, and was probably going to cause an accident, but even typing this now, I have a raw feeling in the pit of my stomach. Like I want to fight him or something.

Road rage is bad. I don't think I want to have it ever again, or I mite have to do a stretch for battering some German automobile driver with a wheel brace....

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Dramatic Chipmonk

After years of porn, free music and computer viruses, the Internet has finally stumped up with something truely worthwhile.. Hit it Chipmonk!

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Alfonse - The Spider who lives in my Wingmirror

Nature is great, it really is. Inside the wingmirror of my lime-green Vauxhall Corsa, resides an ever growing eco-system.

A spider has taken root there and has proceeded to develop a complex web system, despite my initial attempts to dislodge him with my attempts to be the first 1.2L engine to break the landspeed record. I have named him Alfonse.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am not fond of spiders. Infact, I hate them. There is no 'live and let live' philosophy with me and the arachnid species - If one of their kind invades my personal space war is declared until one of us is dead. (I have an undefeated record so far..)

But the shear adversity facing Alfonse has made be look at him differently. True, he is gross, but up against strong winds and 70mph speeds, he has managed to develop an beautifully intricate web - particularly great on wet mornings.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

I don't want to be a silver fox..

The above picture may be dodgy. You may not be able to see what that is on the black background, so I'll spell it out for you.

That is a grey hair. A grey hair. I am 23. This is not acceptable.

I'm off to bed to dream of covert trips to boots to buy 'Just For Men'.

It wasn't meant to be like this...

Monday, 20 August 2007

Martha Wainwright, Island Arts Centre, Tues 14th August.

Last week I went to see Canadian-American chanteuse Martha Wainwright at Island Arts Centre. She is currently touring in lieu of her new album which is to be released in the new year. The evening was opened by The Winding Stair, an unconventional quartet who meld Celtic and conventional styles with beautiful harmonies and some really original ideas. Their new album Finistere is just out, and definitely worth a look.

Although other nights of the tour have featured a full band, tonight's show was a solo acoustic show. Martha appeared on stage looking beautiful and started on the front foot, opening strongly with some banter with the crowd. However as the night wore on, she did start to cut a lonely figure on stage, fluffing some of the lyrics from her debut, and at times crossing the line from charismatic performer into aimless rambling between songs.

The show itself was stunted by too many new songs within the set. Its obvious that she is itching to play the new material she has been working so hard on, but it didn't really appease the waiting crowd.

I like Martha Wainwright. The above paragraphs might sounds negative, so I just want to clear that up. It's just that I think that she could be so much more. Her voice is a unique gift, and when she sings a whole room listens and is abandoned to her image.

I can't help but feel that she is struggling beneath the weight of expectation from her family, inside of the shadow of her brother who has been more successful at carving out his niche in the industry. She even commented as much on making a mistake, saying something along the lines as "No wonder I'm the least successful one!". It was only fitting that on making a mistake during crowd favourite 'Ball and Chain' she restarted the songs at the bridge crying out "Why does this always happen?!' as if it were a in-joke of previous tantrums.

Her debut was good, exceptional in places, and has laid a basis for her to rise up the ranks. There is no reason why she couldn't become as iconic a figure as someone like Emmylou Harris - a singer respected and admired by all within music. (Especially as her contemporaties number Natasha Beddingfield and Lily Allen...) She could be a voice of a generation, if only she figured out what it was that she wanted to say..

3 stars ***.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Nottingham (Not seeing Bright Eyes), 17th & 18th August

Nottingham is good. Their tour book says that it is 'a compact city', which was well suited our flying visit, and although I didn't make it to Sherwood Forest, I did manage to see the sights of the town centre's shopping district. And I have to say that I liked it.

Anyone who knows me well will know that I have a CD obcession. Some might even say I'm a CD pervert. Maybe it's unhealthy, but when I go to town to buy something new, its not just about the buying.. It's the experience. It's the interesting people that you meet. The other things that you see and hear whilst browsing. The new finds and great offers that you come upon whilst fingering through the racks.

In Nottingham, I stumbled upon this great independant record store called Selectadisc which stocked everything that is great and good about music. Indie, Electronica, Classical, Motown, Jazz.. whatever any trained ear could want is all available here, at reasonable prices.

It's not just their stock though, its the ethos behind the store. They obviously love CD's. All of the dual cases are held in a polythene sheath so as not to get scratched, broken of sticky whilst in the racks. The place kind of reminded me of Rob's store in 'High Fidelity', but without the snooty staff and 'unique' employees.

The city also had some fantastic clothes shops- 'Wilder' inparticular had some great indie clothes, along with a fantastic range of Vintage items. (Some of which smelled, but which mostly were class.)

In short, a good time was had by all (despite the lack of gig). The true spirit of Robin Hood has been adjusted slightly by Nottingham airport to allow them to mearly rob the rich, in exchange for... well toasties. And bad service.

I would just like to digitally shake my fist at said banditsm and yell 'Shenanigans!'

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Deep Breath & Count To Ten..

This weekend I had plans. Bright Eyes in Nottingham. There were no Ireland dates, so whilst feeling adventurous I decided a trip that a trip to Nottingham wasn't such a bad idea at all. I might even be able to squeeze in a visit to Sherwood Forest if I'm lucky!

I went through the to do list in my head methodically until everything was sorted..

Book Friday Off Work Check
Book Gig Tickets Check
Book Flights Check
Book Somewhere to Stay Check

This morning I received a text from Ticketmaster telling me the gig was cancelled. There are a couple of things wrong with this picture. Here they are..

1. 'By Text Message'???! Who does that? What professional company used this impersonal, vowelless medium to tell anyone anything.. If its not good enough to dump someone with, then its not good enough to tell me about a pain-in-the-ass cancellation with either.
We live in the 21st century, but that is ridiculous..

2. The reason given was '..due to illness'. A sceptic mite suggest that this isn't illness at all. Its to do with another oversexed, drug addled rock star being too messed up to function as a person, let alone a musician, forcing cancellation of shows, annoyance to promoters, and inconvenience to everyone else. So it's a good things that I'm not a sceptic then..

My flights were expensive. I don't get many days off work. I am angry.

I'm off to scream into a pillow, and see about a visit to Sherwood Forest...

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Advertising Jesus...

I was at the Oval the other night watching half of Man Utd. beat Glentoran 3-0. I was surpised to see this billboard in their stadium - No other words other than ' J E S U S ' in block capital letters.
Disco Stu don't advertise, but its good to see that Christians around there do!

You Lazy Dog..

I snapped this in the Ravenhill Road in Belfast recently - you do have to had it to this dog.. he travels in style..

Monday, 6 August 2007

Apple encourages piracy..

I just bought a new iPod. I didn't really need one, but I have a new job, and my old one is quite annoying displaying only a smug iPod with a sick face which tells me its broken.

I had to laugh though when I opened the packaging to find an amusing 'mixed message'. On the plastic cover of the iPod they have printed the words 'Dont steal music'.

Fair enough. An important point in this day and age, but on the cover of the box is Captain Jack Sparrow..

Encouraging piracy eh?

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The music industry shudders to its core...

Best news story of the day has to be this. Shown right is the new album cover for Hard-Fi's new album. Just to be upfront about this.. I hate Hard-Fi. Hate is a strong word, so maybe I rephrase that.. I really hate Hard-Fi.

Singer Richard Archer is quoted as saying

"We wanted to break the rules."

Wow. What next eh? Who needs Rage Against The Machine to reform..

Have a sense of humour there lads..

I mean if they didnt want a black and white poser-ish picture, they could have just had plain colour or something.. Its hardly 'Never Mind The Bollocks' is it...

Stick It To The Man Indeed!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

The Simpsons Movie.

As I walked into the foyer of the cinema last night the smell of popcorn hit me right in the face. Smells are like no other sense. They can resurface memories which you had buried under years of experiences as if they only happened yesterday. Popcorn reminds me of a childhood visits to the cinema. Visits which had a wide-eyed excitement when watching films like ET or Jurassic Park. Films which made fantasy reality.

This is good because the film I'm going to see is The Simpsons Movie, a film that most people thought they would never see. And it looks amazing. The animation and attention to detail throughout are superb, the millions of dollars available to the producers have allowed Springfield to be made new again with a thorough spit polish shine on its skyline.

The film itself is a great vehicle for the antics of The Simpsons.. there are a lot of things that just cannot be achieved in a 20 minute episode, however, it never once feels like an extended version of the show. It is a film in its own right, a feat for the writers for sure.

At this point I have reached an impasse with my feelings about the film as the last 3-4 series of The Simpsons have been poor. Homer has sold himself out to buffonary instead of actually engaging the viewers as a character. Bart has also lost his shine as the young rascal in the family - his character is written much older than his age here, something which was more implicit in early Simpsons series.

The environmental plot seems tacked on in order to be relevant to the current time, and the main EPA agent villain is poorly characterised. Personally, I would have thought that he would have been more interesting had the writers decided to use him in the guise of the super-rich ego maniac Hank Scorpio from the series, with whom he shares a voice.

As a piece of animation, the film doesn’t have the luxury of papering over its cracks with amazing action sequences and set pieces - if the producers where to crash a car into a helicopter I doubt I would be too impressed, as its only ink and paper. To their credit, the production team haven't over relied on guest stars - Tom Hanks and Green Day are the only big name which are dropped, however maybe this is something that may have actually given the film a leg up, as seen in the last Austin Powers movie.

In making it to the big screen, the shows producers have in one sense made fantasy a reality; however the problems with the series are too great to make this anything more than a spectacle. Five years earlier and maybe this would have been something kids today associated with the smell of popcorn, but more likely this will be as short lived as any of today’s animation faire.

Two Stars. **.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Foy Vance, Waterfront Studios, Saturday 21st July

All of the summer festivals seem to have 'New Music' stages cluttered with artists who are anything but new - journeymen who have paid their dues playing small venues in any town just to be heard.

Foy Vance is such an artist. He has been plugging away for years, honing his act and growing as a songwriter. His growth has seen him go from Van Morrison sound-a-like to an artist in his own right, gaining true recognition within the industry. His songs have even been used in the hit US TV series Greys Anatomy, a show which seems to have a love of Irish acts judging by the inclusions of Iain Archer and Snow Patrol on scenes in the show. He is an artist on the up, a fact that may be indicated by the amount of Foy impersonators and bald men making up the crowd tonight.

Tonight's support act is a spoken word act called Polar Bear Poet, a self confessed 'rhymer' who breathes new life into the cliché Brummie accent, using it to paint pictures in your head at two hundred words per second. On first impression his prescence here seems out of place, but he wins over the crowd with ease and has people hanging on his every word like any Irish storyteller. High recommendation indeed.

Foy rolls onto stage tonight beaming having recently enjoyed success next door supporting Duke Special in the BBC's Orchestral Maneuvres show, and with the release of his debut album 'Hope'. The show consists mainly of the tracks from this, played by Foy, wife Joanne, and regular Keys man Jules Maxwell.

Although only three, the sound is maximised fully by Foys clever use of his trusty loop pedal, a tool so frustrating in the hands of a novice is employed masterfully here to provide the illusion of a soul choir singing backup, an entire percussion section and a full backing band.

The new songs are fantastic - ranging from the slower 'Gabriel And The Vagabond', 'Doesn't Take A Whole Day' and 'Indiscriminate Act Of Kindness' to the blues-ey opener 'Be With Me' which acts as the perfect vehicle for Foy's room-filling cry. 'First of July' is a cracking ballad which reminds us all of a time when we've been left broken hearted by another.

Vance's delivery is a cross between Irish singer-songwriter and the passionate calls of a Southern Preacher, a fact that he himself lampoons on the final song of the encore. He passionately calls Halleluiah, and warbles into the night, walking the fine line between performance and Mariah Carey-style self indulgence impeccably well.
He looks at home on the stage, showing complete control over any heckles from the crowd, retorting with a dry wit and sense of humour missing from many of his current singer-songwriter contemporaries.

This is employed well on the cover versions on display tonight - Michael Jackson's Billie Jean is rolled out here complete with 'Cha-Mones!', crotch-grabbing and moonwalking, but Foy's strength is that he can combine this with a sensitive approach to the song, telling a story of the brokenness of deceitful lovers, which pulls at the heartstrings before he changes the mood midway through the song.

The recurring theme of Hope is evident on all of these songs, and indeed in the eyes of Vance himself, who really seems to believe in the concept of a new day, a clean slate, and a second chance no matter what has passed. This is an admirable quality in any journeyman, and one which could see him go far.

With this attitude backing up the undeniable talent on show tonight, Foy Vance's Hoping could turn into something very special indeed.

Four stars ****.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Richardsons Aren't The Only Ones To Get Results

Sweaty palms, heavy heart beats and the shakes. I've been refreshing this page all morning. All week in fact, and still there is no change.

I’m waiting for my final semesters results, and indeed my degree classification. The climax of five years of my life is at stake here..

It doesn’t help that I'm at work right now, constantly looking over my shoulder lest someone should see what I'm actually looking up, and start asking me questions about it. If I have failed, or even fallen short of the mark, I probably want to be able to save face for at least a while until I've come to terms with the result in my own head.. But everyone will find out sooner or later.


Still nothing. I can vaguely remember sitting the exams.


I had worked myself into a relatively strong position after Februarys exams - I was sitting on my target of a decent 2.1, with the chance of getting a first only really available by an Act of God.
But I can remember not really trying at all in the second semester. In fact, I am currently entertaining thoughts that I don't really even deserve my target grade. Maybe I haven't done enough. Maybe my project is going to bring me down. Maybe I've failed something.

Maybe seems to be the word which defines this situation pretty well. Maybe, but Maybe Not.

My stomach is twisted into a couple of well formed knots- it feels like it could reject the toast and orange juice which I force fed myself an hour and a half ago.


Still nothing.. well wait.. it didn't quite look like this the last time That button wasn’t there.. in fact there is more stuff here.. More numbers. Not as many as I was expecting, but this is it. The moment of truth.. And there it is, right at the top of the page, 2.1. All of sudden I've got a smile across my face which would make Dwight Yorke jealous. What was all that worrying for?!

Perspective time. Looking back on the other morning, I can see that that grade, whilst a good reward for five years of hard slog doesn’t matter.

If I hadn’t got it, I probably would have been gutted because I have put so much into the last year of my life, but whatever those two little numbers are, you can't take away the journey I’ve had.

You can’t take away the people I’ve met. You can’t take away the things that I’ve done, and the things that have been done to me. Those two little numbers are going to serve me very well on a CV for the future, but I would swap this for anything.

Its been emotional..

Friday, 1 June 2007

Love Is A Four Letter Word

My language leads a lot to be desired. Its just something I've never been truly able to get a hold of since I became a Christian, and now those ugly four letter words, so good at emphasizing a joke, tend to slip into my everyday vocabulary too easily.

For me, the thing about four letter words is that as soon as they’ve been said, I instantly regret them. And you can’t take them back.

The dictionary will probably disagree, but I think that ‘swearing’ is whenever you use a word outside of its actual meaning. The problem with this is when a word is misused with any great frequency, it just becomes filler in a sentence – it loses all meaning, and it’s the meaning that’s important.

It not just ‘cuss’ words we do this with either - there are other important examples, and one I want to talk about is the L word.


Love. One syllable encapsulating a concept worthy of the redemption of the human race. In 1 Corinthians 13 it says..

Love (Agape) is patient, love (Agape) is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love (Agape) does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

The above description doesn’t really answer the question of what love is, however it tells me that love is something that isn’t generally found in our nature.

All of the negative attributes listed.. envy, pride, selfishness, grudges are the default for us as human beings, and so I think that Love is when we care about a person so much that we try to become more. We override self to draw close to someone, sacrificing ourselves for their benefit.

I believe that this four letter word is one that has been sullied by too many episodes of soaps, and misused by too many American school girls (stereotyping I know...) to be of any real use...

The real meaning has been lost in the ether, in the static of 21st century people trying to reconcile what love actually is with the distorted world views pushed upon them.

I think that its time for a change. A revamp and a facelift on the whole concept.

In the bible Love is translated in many places from a Greek word ‘Agape’, which defines a specific type of love which we need to aspire to. Matthew 22:37-41 would read:

Agape the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Agape your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

We need to reclaim the positive nature of this statement, to ‘Agape’ all of those around us.

That way at least one word in my vocabulary will be right and true.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The Frames, Vicar Street - Sunday 28th May

"And the price of fame
Is that they love you when you're gone"

I saw The Frames the other night in Dublin. This was the third time Ive seen them, and on a return to their Fair City from lengthy touring and movie promotions I was expecting this to be a show to remember.

Glen was on form with his usual Irish schtick a charm offensive which would win over even the staunchest critic, however heckling and general loutishness in the crowd did spoil some of the more sensitive moments of the night.

The atmosphere in the venue resembled a football match at times, with many members of the crowd more interested in Damien Duff's right sock hanging over the balcony above than the band in front of them. Pearls before swine may sound a bit harsh, but possibly fair in this case.

To their credit, the band didnt seem to let it bother them, and played through the hits, along

with a large majority of recent Long Player 'The Cost'. Opening with 'Fitzcarraldo' was a statement of intent which showed a confidence in their back catalogue. This allows skip tracks (for me anyway) such as 'Stars Are Underground' a new lease of life in a live show which lasted nearly two hours.

The Frames truely are masters of their art. The guitar and violin combine to paint soundscapes which build and build around songs of hope and love. Their rythym section is flawless, and Glen combines the innate ability of the Irish to tell a story, with a voice that sings heartbreak and screams passion in a single phrase.

With the mutted critical response to The Cost however, recognition of this bands art may be a long way off.

On sad songs Glen sings:
"And the price of fame
Is that they love you when you're gone"

For me this laments the fact to and be remembered as a good band is probably not to be remembered at all.

Time will tell whether they make the grade in a very exclusive club, but on tonights showing this is a band which deserves to endure.

Four Stars ****.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Wisdom in Books Indeed.

Imagine your standing in a library. One of those really old libraries with really high ceilings and the individual lights over each desk.

There are so many books here that they have one of those little ladders with wheels on hand to reach those which are too high.

The air is thick with a musty smell that is only ever a combination of dried paper and aged leather bound volumes, and on the otherside of the room there is even a little old lady called Agnes who helps you find whatever you require.

WISDOM IN BOOKS is about living in this library. Its about understanding the world around us by interrpreting all sources which are available, delving below the surface of everything to find the truth, and investigating that truth to see how it applies to life.

Ordering My CD collection.

Having just finished my final tangle of examinations, (I'm not sure what the correct collective term is exams, so I have improvised here..) I have found myself with a lot of time on my hands.

It hilarious that when I was studying there was a million and one things that I wanted to do but couldn't, and now that I can do anything at all, fun ideas seem to have evaporated completely.

The most interesting thing which I have managed to do today is to reorganise my CD collection. (This was a more detailled process than it sounds, requiring an entire Saturday afternoon to check that everything is in the right place, clean and replace broken cases, and fully organise everything.)

I did think of storing everything autobiographically in a Rob-Fleming-High-Fidelity style haze, however on reflection, I'm much too half assed for such things, and instead decided to plump for the standard althabetical approach.

Through the afternoon, I have drawn a few conclusions. Here they are..

I own CDs which I should be **ASHAMED** of, but strangely am not.
(Two S-Club7 albums, B*Witched's debut and Aqua's Aquarium to name a few..)

  • I own one album by a band whose name begins with 'Z'.
  • The most common name first letter is 'S'.
  • Hardly no-ones band begins with 'H', 'Q', or 'X'.
  • I have too much money, and I spend too much money on CDs..
It has been on my mind recently that we are all a patchwork quilt of the things that we love.. We define ourselves in terms of the things that we are interested in and the activities that we do.

This definition bleeds into every facet of our lives - the friends that we choose, the clothes that we wear, and the places that we go.

When I accepted Jesus, I knew that I was crucified with Christ - I am now made new. Jesus living inside of me, and the Holy Spirit working through me. So why so I want to hold onto these earth things, which have no real value in the end?

I am also very conscious that we sometimes use these worldly things as a barrier to the protect us from other people. In the end sometimes I think that we are all just trying to "out cool" each other.

I guess I should try to start thinking of myself as defined in Christ, and not Companct Discs..
"I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ
liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the
faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me."
(Galatians 2:20).

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Songs That Make Me Press Rewind..

You know when you're listening to a cd for the first time and you come across one of those songs..

A tune that makes the hairs on your neck stand up.. One of such beauty, that you hit rewind straight away to hear it again..

Here my top 12 in no order..

  1. Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism
  2. Wilco - At Least Thats What You Said
  3. Ryan Adams - Nuclear
  4. Regina Spektor - Samson
  5. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
  6. Arcade Fire - Rebellion
  7. Bloc Party - Little Thoughts
  8. Bright Eyes - Light Pollution
  9. Duke Special - No Cover Up
  10. Fast Emperors - It Should Be Always Like This
  11. The Go! Team - Huddle Formation
  12. Smashing Pumpkins - 1979
This just came to me. Now think of your 12, and go listen to them..

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Blogging : Fad, Phase or Fate.

I have decided to jump upon the user-generated-content bandwagon and start my very own web-log... a blog if you will.

Time will tell whether this will be a phase.. a fad started on a Sunday afternoon to escape both the O.C. on channel 4, and an assignment on another window on my computer.

The clocks changed last nite and my body is still adjusting to both the loss of an hour, and also to the sunshine pouring through the window as we speak. Spring is here!

Time will tell if this blog is as fleeting as the winter which has just passed... Hopefully inspiration will strike me!

Listening to:

Personality. One Was A Spider. One Was A Bird
The Sleepy Jackson.