Sunday, August 27, 2006

Illness update

ComedyB Jr is coming out of the hospital on Tuesday. He is much better now.

Bait and Switch

This is really quite a terrifying book, for several reasons. One, it really manages to knock home the idea that America's interior is largely composed of windowless rooms where people are either trying to convert you to religion, or extort money from you in some other way. Two, it reminds you again of just how stupid people can be: people in the job market seem to really believe all that enneagram crap that we used to do in the Theo for a laugh (which seems strangely at odds with their fairly serious Christian beliefs. I thought proper Christians didn't believe in all that stuff?). Three, it offers a view of the kind of dystopian future we could end up in here in Europe if we don't hang on to our employment laws for as long as possible. The next time I hear someone from IBEC moaning about the strict employment laws in Ireland, or the minimum wage, I'm going to send them a copy of this book.

The Seeds of Time

Why don't people read John Wyndham? I asked in the pub one evening. It turns out they do, so that's me wrong. There's not a huge amount to say about this charming collection of well-intentioned, funny, and ever so British sci-fi stories, except that I wish I had the edition pictured here, and that I am now really looking forward to reading The Day of the Triffids, which I also bought for €1 in my old shop.


Which I also read during my weekend of chick lit and rom com hell. This is a cut above, however. It's a bit like Flambards or Gone With the Wind, only with a much darker edge. The story follows a girl who is born onto the Wideacre estate and loves it so much that she learns every single thing there is to learn about it, its people, its crops, wildlife, so on and so on. But of course she is a woman, and this is eighteenth century England, so there's no way she can ever own or run her beloved estate. That honour is left to her ever-so-slightly rubbish brother, who is very attractive, but gullible, and cursed with something of a kinky streak that saw him getting kicked out of public school.

So the girl decides to do everything in her power to ensure that she and her heirs get to keep hold of the place she loves. Of course it all goes horribly wrong, how could it not? Interestingly though, the thing that undoes her is not really her shocking incestuous relationship with her brother, which after a while takes on the characteristics of just another chore that she must perform in order to get her way, but her lack of business training and her inability to deal with the mounting debts that are being incurred because she wants to buy out the entail on the property. As usual there's some excellently researched background detail, and even the irritating style that Phillipa Gregory sometimes has doesn't get too much. I wouldn't go giving this to your Mam for Christmas or anything, but it's a thumping holiday read. Much, much better than 90 percent of the chick lit I've read in my life. All the words are spelled correctly, for one thing.

My weekend of chick lit and rom com hell

So, I have been accused of some things. Some of you may remember the pirate issue. And the fun issue. And recently I was accused by a Dublin councillor and former Lord Mayor of not having any sense of romance. Well. A lady doesn't take kindly to such accusations. So, when all my housemates, and my husband, were out of town recently, I decided to make a girly weekend of it. I bought myself some chocolate and some ice cream, and settled down with a Mills and Boon book.
I saw Marriage Under Siege in the bookshop some time ago, and must confess to being surprised that M&B even had a line of books set during the English Civil War. Not, you would think, a sexy time. Not even really a romantic time. But of course, I am wrong. Family pitted against family! Divided loyalties! Puritans! What could be more sexy/romantic?
Everything about Marriage Under Siege is poor. The "story", the "characters", the interpretation of the politics surrounding the war. And the worst part was that the sex scenes weren't even any good. But of course that could partly be my own fault, because I kept imagining that the Witch Smeller General was going to arrive in at any moment and cauterize wounds and burn women at the stake or something, but he never did. Mills and Boon books are even worse than you think. They're not even a laugh. Avoid them.
Avoid also Heartbreakers, which I also watched on this weekend of NOTHING ON. As usual, Gene Hackman's got some great lines in it, but nothing on a par with his foliage speech from The Birdcage. Still, I don't think he gets to do enough comedy. And, while you're avoiding things, really, really be sure to avoid Alex and Emma, starring Luke Wilson (who does not make a good leading man. It seems to be difficult for him to talk, like the way it's difficult for Nicolas Cage) and Kate Hudson, who is okay normally, but awful to the core in this thing. If you have to choose between Heartbreakers and Alex and Emma because someone's going to kill you if you don't watch one of them, just take the bullet. It would be better for you.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Send in the Idiots

You'd be forgiven for thinking that I haven't read a single thing lately, but you'd be wrong. In fact I read all the time these days, at work. Why, just this week I read about how Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali banded together with Brazil to use the WTO to force the USA to cut subsidies to its cotton farmers. And about the interesting new situation with regard to intellectual and indigenous property in Africa, where state governments don't play that strong a role, and the possibility that windfalls to certain tribes or ethnic groups from transnational corporations (for a malaria drug, or oil, or ancient treasures) might exacerbate existing tensions between groups and seve to further weaken the state government's position. And about public administration and financial reforms in Uzbekistan. And about acculturative stress in Korean and Indian immigrant adolescents in the US.
And it turns out that I'm not bad at reading lengthy articles and creating 150 word summaries of them. It turns out that I can skim them pretty well and then pass the salient information on to someone else. And it makes me very happy to be in that kind of job.
But I have been reading books. Honest. Why, here's one now.
Send in the Idiots is a book about autism by a man who was diagnosed as autistic when he was a boy and sent to a special school in New York. In this book, he tracks down some of his classmates and spends time with them in order to write about what it is like to be autistic. Now, most of the people he hooks up with are pretty functioning autistic folk. They have jobs, and they live away from their parents, and some of them even have relationships. But the autism is always there and it informs everything about them. And not all of them make it. There's a definite air about them of being aware that they are the lucky ones. There's even a story that proves it. It's an enjoyable book. I don't know if you can really take much away from it except some people's experiences of living with a particular condition; I wouldn't use it as a basis for claiming to know all about autism or anything like that, but it's a good book, well written, with some interesting broader theories about the condition thrown in. The marketing is quite creepy, though. The copy I bought was an advance readers' one, and on the back it says stuff about how the book is guaranteed to be a big seller because interest in autism is huge right now. It seems like such a calculating thing to say.

End of an era

The Perrier award is no more. Controversial in recent years, because of Perrier's connection to the evils of the world, thankfully it's now being sponsored by Intelligent Finance (no chance anything bad can be associated with them, right? I mean, a financial services company, always squeaky clean, right?).

So, new award, new name. The Comeddies. Because they're sponsored by Clever, no?

Anyway, Accentmonkey interest in the awards rests on David O'Doherty, or Phil Nichol, or God's Pottery in the newcomer category. It would be so great if once, just once, the person I wanted to win actually won. Surely by spreading it around three of them, I've got to have a chance.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Shows we saw at Edinburgh

This year, we had possibly the best balance yet between loads of shows and loads of hanging around with people. Aside from the usual desperate Saturday night scramble for something decent to eat, we remembered all our own rules and avoided overcrowded, really cramped, basement pub-style venues. So that cut out The Stand, sorry Eddie Bannon and friends, and also The Tron, sorry Glenn Wool. However, we did see a lot of stuff. Friday night we went to see Matt Kirshen. He's very funny. Clever, pleasant, likeable, witty, personable. A good comedian. But there were fireworks on Friday night. ComedyB was presenting Best of the Fest in the Abbembelly Booms. It was a typical late night audience. One stag party in, many of the more middle-aged patrons were asleep (it starts at midnight), and the comedians were having to work for it. Glenn was reasonably popular, if a little rambling. And then Rhys Darby came out, and he was also very good. He does sound effect stuff. Then Richard Herring. I was quite looking forward to seeing Richard Herring. I was wrong. His material was alright, I guess, but the drunken element of the audience didn't appreciate it and one of the stag party started a slow handclap. Richard Herring did not appreciate that. First, he berated the drunk bloke for not appreciating his very clever style of comedy. Then, he had a go at the other comedians. "Sorry I can't make silly noises", he said "or be casually racist like Glenn". There was an argument, and he eventually left the stage. Luckily the next act on was Phil Nichol, a man who could make people laugh during an air raid, I'm sure. He pulled his pants down, pulled his t-shirt over his head, and sang songs very loudly and with a kind of frightening energy. Relief all round.
Saturday, we saw Hoodwinked, a kids' film, CGI and all that, you know. It's fine, as these things go. Some amusing jokes, some nice songs, some nice homages to computer games, but something lacking to make it really great. However, it does feature very positive potrayals of both young girlhood and old womanhood, and there is no innuendo, and not a lot of violence. So it's a parents' dream of a film. We had great intentions to do other things on Saturday, but we were very tired, having been up drinking the night before till ever so late.
Sunday, we saw the loveliest film. It was called Into Great Silence, a two and a half hour film about a particularly ascetic silent order of monks and their daily lives. Sadly the director didn't have enough money to shoot the whole thing on lovely film, so a lot of it is filmed on digital video, which gives it too much grain, but otherwise it's superb.
Sunday night we saw ComedyB's show, which was up to its usual high standard and has a Special! New! Opening! which is very flash and swish.
On Monday we saw a children's show, as we usually do, called The Onomatopoeia Society 2: The Etymological Conference, which I thought had some serious flaws: largely, it was too difficult to hear some of the dialogue, and the bit where the Kissing Horse would run out and sing a little song to cover up lazy joke writing was an awful admission that there was lazy joke writing. Why not just write better jokes? ComedyB pointed out that he was annoyed about the show's definition of the word "alliteration"; he claims it only applies to consonants. I confessed that I thought alliteration was when two or more words in a sentence started with the same letter. It turns out that Webster's agrees with me, while other dictionaries agree with him. So everyone's right. Or only some are.
Later we saw God's Pottery do their Concert for Lavert, which was a very moving show in which Gideon Lamb and Jeremiah Smallchild sing songs and try to bring us all closer together (even the Jews and Muslamics), and raise money for a young boy called Lavert, who has cancer. They don't know what kind he has, or who he got it from, but they're going to help him beat it. Great show. I felt affirmed by it.
Then we went and did a lot of drinking, because it was the launch of ComedyB's DVD, his first ever, and we had to help swell the crowd at the party.
Then, much later, we saw some boys trying to jump over things in the street on their bikes and everyone stood and applauded, because we were all so used to being an audience by then that we had to react to them in some way.
And today we came home, and the woman in front of me reclined her seat, so I stuck my knee in her back, and when she complained that I was sticking my knee in her back, I said "No, I'm just getting my magazine out of the pocket", and waved my magazine at her, but really I was sticking my knee in her back. Fuck her.

Sunday dinner in Edinburgh hospital

Yum yum, huh? This is, sadly, what poor ComedyB Jr. had for his dinner last Sunday. He is in the hospital, you see. Apparently last Tuesday he started doing the throw up thing, thought he was just getting "Edinburgh flu", and kind of ignored it. Then on Friday night he was admitted to hospital because he couldn't stop being sick. He has been in hospital since then, with a huge rash on his hands and feet, some kind of abnormalities on his liver, and continued vomiting. He's a lot better now. The doctors think he has some sort of extreme version of streptococcal bacterial infection and have been treating him with antibiotics and have him on a constant drip. He may be in till the weekend. The Mother of all the Byrnes is with him, as is his friend who is also (handily) a nurse, and OldestB lives not too far away. A bit of a blow for ComedyB Jr, who is supposed to be running at least three shows at the fringe. Wish him well, won't you?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Look, Ma, I'm on Myspace!

Here I am!

This is mainly because ComedyB is on Myspace now, and I want to be his friend.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Warp Spasm!

Few things can send me into the berserker rage like people who say "very unique". I know that Mother Monkey and I can be very exacting about our language, and we have our little phrases we'd rather not hear, but honestly, "very unique"?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Man, summer is LOOONNNG

When are all my stories back on? When will the relentless mugginess cease? When will all the people go back to where they came from and leave our beach alone?

By the way, people who go to the beach, you do know that dogs spend their mornings peeing all over the sandcastles you made yesterday, right? So don't, whatever you do, go back to them the next day for some remodelling work. Seriously. My dogs leave no castle unbaptized.

In the meantime, I have found It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a low-budget sitcom from FX. It's no Entourage, but it's funny. Plus it's legally available on your iPod, if you want to go down that route.