Just a quick post to draw your attention to this book, ‘In Concert, Favourite Gigs of Ireland’s Music Community’, produced by Niall McGuirk and Michael Murphy of Hope Publications, for which I wrote a short article sometime last year.
In it, loads of Irish music folks from the world of journalism, gig promotion and of course bands themselves (myself included) talk about their favourite gig to take place in Ireland. All the profits go to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Syrian refugees.
As Niall wrote ahead of the launch, the book came about as a result of seeing pictures from the town of Aleppo, which as you’re no doubt aware has been absolutely bombarded over the past five years.
I’ve ordered my copy, and was lucky enough to see the book in draft form ahead of publication. It’s a real ‘who’s who’ of people involved in music over here (well, and me!), with over 100 different contributors talking about gigs spread across several decades. It goes without saying, none of us were paid for our contributions (charity being a special case!), and while there’s a number of more obvious contributions (yes, it features U2 several times), you might learn a little bit about some less-publicised Irish acts, too. I wrote about Dropkick Murphy’s – you’ll have to read it to find out why.
Grab a copy at the link above for €15, and you’ll get a great read and be doing a little bit of good along the way…
The best casinos on the international playing scene
Traveling the world is a dream that many aspire to fulfill, but only a few actually do. The truth is, there will always be a part of human beings that makes them scared of the unknown; and what is traveling if not venturing and immersing oneself in the unfamiliar.
This same sentiment should also go for casino aficionados looking to up their experience levels. Going to the usual local gaming establishments is all well and good, but to truly get a world-class challenge, players should expand their boundaries, get out of their comfort zones, and see what other casinos from all four corners of the Earth have to offer.
Additionally, many of these casinos provide an added layer of sophistication, being frequented by high-rolling casino players the world over. Many casinos now seek to draw in new players with lavish interiors that promote extravagance, as online casinos have begun to appeal to more and more people. A blog post by Intercasino, the world’s first online casino, which has expanded from simple slot and card games to include even a “Live” Casino and Roulette experience, explains that online casinos focus on providing the most convenient experience to their patrons. By contrast, land-based casinos make it a point to make their halls and interiors worth the trip. This means that not only will your playing proficiency increase by visiting the casinos below, but you’ll be treated to some of the most stylishly refined environs ever.
1. One of the most famous gaming places in the world, the Monte Carlo Casino just reeks of elegance. If the social status of the majority of its patrons doesn’t give that away, then surely its connection to James Bond lore will; and really, who could be more suave than 007 himself? Not only was the casino featured in the 1995 movie GoldenEye, but going back more than three decades prior, the casino was a huge inspiration for the first ever Bond novel, Casino Royale.
January’s been pretty intense. Fun, but also crammed full of launching a magazine, job hunting and making a vague effort to get into running again (which, I’ve just noticed, isn’t reflected in these images at all, but I guess I need to cover some real distance before it’s worth throwing up in an image!). I’m glad it’s worked out this way, because the highs and lows involved in this sum up why I decided to go for the Happy Days concept in the first place. Is it working as motivation? Who knows, but stuff certainly seems to be happening, with a little help from my friends! This one goes from 5mph to 100 at right about day 39. Without further ado, here’s the second installment. Click here for Days 1-20!
Here’s a little motivational project I have going at the moment under popular Instagram hashtag #100HappyDays, largely to keep me positive whilst job hunting. These are the first twenty entries through Christmas and New Year 2014 and early 2015. The next twenty will have a far more serious bent I suspect, but it’s been nice to start out with family, food, puppies and booze!:
Sport, often, is a clean-cut, disappointingly attitude-free undertaking, but not tonight. Roller derby’s skating queens are ice-cool, heavily made-up skating juggernauts, powering round a track in a speedy, fishnets-and-tattoos blur. When AU arrives in the Valley Leisure Centre tonight the place is already rammed with punk-ethos, blasting Stiff Little Finger’s ‘Alternative Ulster’ on a loop as if to welcome us, and chock full with manic skaters wearing their knickers on the outside. Perfectly lit pitches and one-track lives this is not.
The Belfast roller derby league formed 18 months ago, after the skater calling herself Hannahbolic Steroids took the advice of friends in Birmingham, and took on the burden of formation herself. A quick mail to a few friends had a first practice session in place, and training, featuring regular ‘fresh meat’, has been growing ever since. Tonight, there are 28 skaters who’ve reached a level necessary to compete publically. Like many more recent teams, the Belfast girls grew in numbers as Barrymore’s film ‘Whip It’ gained popularity. The film sees the actress playing an indie-alternative small-town Texan girl escaping the world of pageants to find her own identity in an extremely (and unrealistically) aggressive form of rollerderby carnage. ‘Sigourney Cleaver’ – whose off track costume includes a large (fake) blooded knife – is one Barrymore-inspired recruit, joining “only a couple of days” after seeing the movie. Others, like J-Mag were recruited through an undercurrent of word of mouth and the flyering of Belfast’s more alternative corners.
The basic principles of Roller derby are fairly simple, though the heavier technicalities extend to a half-inch-thick rule book. Each team fields five players, eight of whom (four from each team) circle the track as ‘blockers’, led by the strategy-calling pivot. Behind them, and starting just a touch later, the speedy ‘jammers’ – one from each team – power towards the pack, and attempt to skip, twist and bash their way through to the front. The blockers job is a dual one: they’re responsible for both blocking the opposition jammer, and helping their own to pass through the rolling bodies unscathed. For each opposition blocker that the jammer passes after their first run through, or for lapping the opposition jammer, they pick up a point. Each ‘jam’ lasts two minutes (though it can be ended early by the lead jammer), while a ‘bout’ – or contest – has a one hour limit, but crams in as many jams as possible. In practice, the jammers are slightly more important than the blockers (both of whom rotate from a 14-girl team), though a good blocker can prevent a jammer from cashing in at all, and so also be worth a whole lot of points. Explaining the blocker’s strategy, J-Mag argues “the concentration is mainly on the other team’s jammer. Helping your own jammer is secondary.”
The heart doesn’t thump. It’s more like pum-POOM, falling at intervals of just over a second, and accompanied by the barely audible pressure of blood forcing its way into a ventricle. In here, it seems to beat at the volume of human speech, though it’s dramatically overpowered by the slight creek of a gentle raise of the arm in the darkness. My surroundings are such an empty nothingness that I can only tell for certain whether my eyes are open or closed by poking at the eyeball. Occasionally, without warning, an anatomical extremity collides with the invisible walls surrounding my half-naked body. It’s the gentlest of collisions, but its unpredictability sends a tsunami of shockwaves through the darkness, bouncing my floating body back into a seemingly static yet endlessly unstable state of suspension.
About 45 minutes pass, and I turn on the light switch. I’m floating in a salty bath in the blindingly dark confines of what’s essentially a blacked out, nicely heated paddling pool. It’s intimidating at first, yet the kind of blackness that descends when the lights flicker out – fused with the deathly silence aided by ear plugs and the gentle two-tone beat of the heart – quickly evaporates any concept of time. Soon afterwards, the head begins to swirl with entirely un-stimulated randomness, spinning between complete consciousness and a day-dream state. After five minutes, virtual to-do lists and ‘thinking time’ are exhausted and overwhelmed. Sheer serenity, empty space and stress relief kick in: I’m floating in a carbon fibre tub in a central Dublin basement, but I could be anywhere, or equally, nowhere.
How a business owner in small town America became an artistic philosopher, and owner of one of the biggest private blogs in the world…
Frank Warren is an artist, yet he doesn’t produce any art. He’s a popular public speaker, yet most of the stories he presents are not his own. He’s also something of a guru: a man who listens to others’ problems on a daily basis, and does so without judgment. Every week, he’s contacted by the abused and their abusers; the suicidal and the murderous. Over the last few years, he’s heard from thousands of cheating spouses, hundreds of sexual deviants, priests who don’t believe in God and someone who fed a container of bleach to their cat. Despite all of the above contacting Frank personally and specifically, he has absolutely no idea who any of these people are.
The early moves towards what would become ‘Post Secret’ could almost be classified as spam. A selection of self-addressed postcards asking strangers to submit anonymous secrets started out as a one-off art project, and drew a response of around 3%. That was more than enough for an art exhibit, which was eventually transferred to Frank’s website, PostSecret.com. Between that inauspicious start in 2005 and the present day, Frank’s been handing out his home address online, and has received more than a million postcards, every one of which he reads and keeps. He sees his hobby as a valuable insight into the human psyche. In a sense, he’s like a modern day agony uncle, except without any hint of judgment along the way. The sole purpose is to get the ideas off your chest, anonymously, yet also in a way that exposes your thoughts and actions to the general public.
Bouncers, perhaps, are a necessarily aggressive bunch. Standing dutifully at venue doors, black suits barely hiding a substantial stature, it’s not difficult to see the relationship between punter and doorman as something of a battle. On the one hand, bouncers secure premises: if a fight breaks out, most suddenly have an entirely more positive feeling about their presence. If you’re on the wrong side of things, though, a reputation as ‘not the sharpest tool in the box’ combined with a shove in the wrong direction soon has the men in black cast as the bad guys. In the past couple of months, events in our two largest cities have fuelled this anger, leading to calls for legal action and sizable Internet campaigns.
A disabled punter recently at Rain, Belfast alleges that a member of the nightclub’s staff refused him access to the club to avoid “carrying a wheelchair up the stairs”. Soon, local newspapers and a Facebook protest group of 12,000 promising legal action rose up in support. Later, the group disappeared. The implication is a nasty one, but the club – bafflingly unwilling to release a public statement – seem to see things differently in private. A member of Rain’s staff anonymously informed us that the event described isn’t logical, as going upstairs wouldn’t be an issue on entry. While this remains an unofficial stance, whispers on the Internet – combined with the deletion of the group – suggest a case of ‘crying wolf’. One commenter even claims to have seen the incident, and that the punter’s friend caused the rejection. It’s impossible for AU to play judge, jury and executioner, but we can’t help wondering if the bad press Rain received as a result might have been a touch unfair.