Sunday, May 27, 2007

Do you like a laugh?

This could be just the thing.

It starts on Tuesday night on RTE.

Do you like to be scared?

In my case the answer is yes, sometimes, but only a little bit. On last night's Dr. Who, for example, there were scary scarecrows. And they weren't just scarey in an if-I-was-a-child-watching-this-I-would-be-scared way. No, they were scary in a "Monkey, I don't like it," way. If I had seen them as a child, I would never have gone walking in the countryside again. Or at least, not for a week or so.

But the time passed and they went away and I had my dinner (yummy aubergines, which are proving to be the hit of our household these days. Wish I could grow my own. Anyway...) and thought little more about them. However, later on Mister M decided we would watch Asian Shocker The Eye.

This is a Hong Kong film made by a couple of mentallers called The Pang Brothers, and it is about a woman who is blind from the age of two, but then, in her twenties, has a corneal transplant which allows her to see. Unfortunately, she starts seeing people who are just about to die, and then they follow her around once they're dead. Ho hum, we thought, this film is very slow. And not scary at all.

Ha ha! Some of you may remember this line of reasoning from the time we watched Ring, which was so not scary for the first hour and a half that I actually fell asleep during it. Some of you may have been bored to tears listening to me talk about how scary the last half hour of that film is. I can only assume that The Eye is kind of the same, because after a good forty minutes of seeing not scary at all dead people, the woman in the film gets into a lift, and in the corner of the lift is an old man, who is obviously dead. He is facing into the corner of the lift, away from her. The lift rises slowly, and we can see him, moving around behind her in the lift. In fact, he is drifting very slowly towards her as the lift rises with agonising slowness towards the 15th floor.

I stopped looking at the screen at this point, and am reliably informed by Mister M that this was the right thing to do, since it was obvious that the man had not died from the happiness of being licked by a fluffy kitten, and he was just about to touch her when she burst out of the lift, to safety.

Except not safety, because she was only on the 14th floor!

We turned off the film after that. But it's in there, in the Sky box, waiting. Lurking. Calling to me to watch it to see if it gets scarier.

I think I might just watch the Dr. Who episode again. After all, David Tennant gets off with Jessica Stevenson in a kind of To Serve Them All My Days setting. What could be more comforting to watch than that?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Miserable election day, people

There was only one thing for it. We found ourselves a torrence of the season finale of Lost, because we couldn't wait till Sunday.

I reckon it's just about one of the best hours and a half of television I've ever watched.

I'm including a gratuitous picture of Naveen, just because it's one of the only two bright spots in an otherwise rotten day (the other one being Michael McDowell's concession of defeat, but I'm damned if I'm putting his picture on my blog).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Separated at birth

Why aren't you funnier?

It's an old cry, I know, but a heartfelt one. Why aren't these women funnier? I've just been watching Neil Delamere's STOLEN Just for Laughs, and as usual, the women were not funny. One of the women in particular annoyed me. She is, apparently, the 30th most powerful woman in the Canadian media, or something. I can't even remember her name, and I just saw her twenty minutes ago.

She was not funny.

Another woman was mildly funny, but nothing like as funny as she thought she was.

And then there was You Know Who, who appears to have turned into Tommy Tiernan, but nevertheless somehow managed to be almost funny. Certainly entertaining to listen to.

It pains me, as someone who is conversationally funny, to watch women who are professionally "funny", not being funny. It pains me. (I am putting my hand over my heart in the manner of one who is pained.)

407 965 0600

Do you recognise this number? It's a U.S. number, and when I answered it on Saturday, a recorded voice told me I had been randomly selected to win a holiday in Florida. I called Eircom and asked how this was a legal call, since I am on a Do Not Call list.

Sadly, the Do Not Call list only applies within Ireland. People from outside Ireland can call me with whatever shit they like.

The Eircom person said that I should find out the name of the company making the calls and ask to be removed from their list. But, according to my friend The Internet, if you press button 9, as the call entices you to do, you then get to talk to a person, but you've also "displayed interest" in the product, and so you are no longer entitled to be removed from their list and it's legitimate for them to keep calling you.

They seem to be fishing for credit card details. And by "fishing", I mean "asking". I certainly won't be answering the phone to them a second time, even though they called again today.

Anyway, if you see this number on your caller display, don't answer it. That is all.

Update update! I posted my experience on a message board, and right before me there was a message from a guy called Paul who also lives in Ireland and has had the same calls. He was also told there was nothing that could be done because the calls do not originate within Ireland.

Tea Clipper vs. East Indiaman FITE!

It can be no coincidence (except it can) that on the very day that London's beloved tea clipper, the Cutty Sark, succumbed to fire and had to dump its cargo, causing massive tea shortages all over these isles, that the Swedish East Indiaman Gotheborg sailed up the Thames, cannons blazing.

Some parts of the above statement are true.

Anyway, once again I curse my metal legs and the fact that I don't live in London. The Gotheborg will be berthed there until June 2nd, and you can go aboard this fabulous replica of a ship that ran aground in 1745, and learn all about the oppression of half the globe. Good, eh?

Luckily, Queenie continues to send me updates on the Tall Ships festival that will be taking place for my benefit in Halifax in July, and I live in hope of seeing the Batavia in the Netherlands in September.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

RTE is the weakest link

When Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in Great Britain in 1978, she turned down an invitation to debate Prime Minister James Callaghan on television. The decision was probably based on the knowledge that she wouldn't win, but the reason her team gave at the time was that a president was not being chosen, so why should the two leaders of the parties debate each other?

I wonder the same thing about the Irish elections. Do people in Ireland really vote on who they want to see as Taoiseach, or do they vote based on what the local representative of a particular party can do for them and their local area? Unless you're in Bertie Ahern's constituency, you're not voting for him directly, so what's the point of the debate, really?

Nevertheless, RTE have spent the entire morning so far talking about last night's ridiculous festival of name-calling between the possible Tanaisti (is that the right plural?), and trying to get people to watch tonight's debate between Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny. They talked about it on Morning Ireland, where I got to hear Michael McDowell's "oh no he di'nt!" line that he's clearly been batting around the office for weeks, about being on stage with the left, the hard left, and the left overs. Leftovers, geddit? It's great to live in a country where the kind of line they trot out for the lineup section on Never Mind the Buzzcocks is considered cutting satire. And there was Pat Rabbitte's line about McDowell being like a "menopausal Paris Hilton; he's an inveterate attention-seeker".


Oh please. I may not watch the debate tonight (let's face it, I won't), but thanks to Morning Ireland, Ryan Tubridy, and Pat Kenny, and their tireless self-advertising that passes for current affairs programming, at least I know it's on.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sweeney Todd

Earlier in the year, for my birthday in fact, Mister M took me to the Abbey to see Julius Caesar and we were so pissed off with the whole experience that we left at the interval. There were three reasons for this.
1) People in the theatre were talking along with the famous bits
2) The acting was poor to shouty. There was none of the seemingly relaxed, conversational style of Shakespeare acting that we had witnessed in Anto and Cleo in February
3) The seats were deathly uncomfortable, even allowing for our noble girth. I, a woman with notoriously short legs (just ask my tailor), was jabbed in the knee by the girl in the seat in front of me every time she reached for her mobile phone, which was every five minutes

I put it down to a poor production and thought no more about it (well, you know, except to complain loudly at every opportunity).

But last week we went to see Sweeney Todd in the Gate, and I was reminded of nothing so much as the time we went to see the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society do Guys and Dolls about 25 years ago. The acting was, well... Anita Reeves was very good as Mrs. Lovett, and Barry McGovern was excellently creepy as the judge. The juvenile leads were sorely lacking any kind of appeal or lung power, however, and Sweeney himself was a little too shouty and not enough singy for me.

Moreover, the whole thing just kind of smacked of not quite enough attention to sound quality, which is not fair when you're putting on a musical, especially one that hasn't got a lot of dialogue in it, so you kind of need to be able to hear the words of the songs in order to follow the plot. Don't get me wrong. It was very enjoyable, a good time was had by all, the show is great and rollicks along like, I don't know, some sort of bloodthirsty child in a fairground, and even the enormous school group managed to stay quiet most of the time, even if the ones near us did continue to hit each other for a very long time after the show started. Still though, the tickets were €35 each, and the scrapey violins did sometimes drown out the singing, something I don't expect. And the chorus' lyrics could never be made out. And there just weren't enough of them to make a big, threatening sound and a bustling street scene. I don't know, maybe I'm too demanding, but I kind of expect proper, good professionals for that kind of money.


This is what I have now. Swelling of the extremities due to pooling of blood or something. Lovely.

Mister Monkey and I spoke this morning of what I would need to do to try to manage my hypertension without recourse to medication, given that the medication appears to disagree with me. Sadly, what I would need to do is basically reinvent my entire self and become some other, healthier, calmer human being. I would need to eat well, follow a whole food diet, and avoid alcohol and salt. I would also need to be calm (no laughing at the back, there), and meditate and do yoga and all that stuff.

On one level, it's very appealing. I would like to be calmer. I've never met anyone who is as stressed out and mental with so little external stress and cause for mentalness. I've even heard it suggested that part of the reason for my day-to-day boiling rage is my high blood pressure, and that if my blood pressure came down I would be more calm and less anxious anyway, and then would find it easier to become more calm and less anxious. I don't know about that, but I know some things, namely:

I still hate going to the doctor, and it gives me stress.
I really hate going to the hospital.
I don't like taking medication, especially given it makes me puke/cough/swell up like Violet Beauregarde.
I don't want to have a stroke/heart attack/whatever the hell else high blood pressure puts me at risk of. (Nice hanging preposition there. Shut up, you.)

It doesn't leave a huge number of options, does it? Except there is one sliver of hope for the medication I'm on at the moment, and that's pine bark. Apparently it's some kind of miracle herbal remedy, and can reduce oedema. God, I hope so. It hurts to walk. So I will once more consult with my doctor next week and see what she thinks about pine bark. Maybe she might even read back over my file this time!

I would say "fingers crossed", but I can't actually cross them at the moment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Gun Seller

This is a highly entertaining book by that nice man Hugh Laurie. In a little interview at the back of my U.S. copy (because you can't just sell people a book any more. You have to sell them ancillary bits, as if it was a DVD) nice Mr. Laurie explains that he wrote the book because a quick review of his diary one day revealed that he had done exactly nothing interesting for six months. So he decided he would write himself a more glamorous and exciting life. It's a simple reason to write a book, and it's a simple book.
Imagine if P.G. Wodehouse had written a thriller.
There you are.

Of course, the fact that it was written ten years ago, or thereabouts, means that it has aged hugely. There's all kinds of things in it that just wouldn't happen now. Everything about international terrorism has changed since then, so it all looks very innocent now. But it's still fun.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Further illness update

The fun marches on.

So, about six months ago I got a really bad chest infection and went to the doctor, who prescribed me antibiotics and inhalers and steroids, and I took them, and the chest infection went away, but the hacking cough stayed. It was constant. It kept me awake at night, it woke me up in the morning. It made it impossible to work, read, or enjoy anything. It made me strain my back and neck from coughing. It was awful, in short. I went back to the doctor about it and was given more antibiotics and more inhalers and more steroids and it still didn't go away.

So then my doctor told me that it sounded like I had asthma, and she took blood to determine what I might be allergic to that could be making it worse. I moved all my stuff out of the upstairs office where the cats sleep to the kitchen, where everything is tiled; I considered putting in wooden floors. She gave me more inhalers, a steroid one and another one. Neither of them really did anything, but I carried on taking them anyway. The cough persisted.

I went back to the doctor last week, a month after the blood tests, to see if they had come back. They hadn't, but when she looked at my file to see if there was anything that could be done for me, she said "oh, you're taking Lisinopril for your blood pressure".
"Yes," I said. "You prescribed it for me because the Micardis was making me sick. The whirling head, the throwing up."
"Lisinopril can cause a dry, persistent cough," she said.

I almost cried. I almost hit her. I almost walked out of her office. But I didn't. Instead, I calmly pointed out to her that she had put me on this drug, and that since she had put me on it, I had spent almost €200 on inhalers to get rid of the cough, and had missed work, and been utterly wretched for six months. She apologised profusely and didn't charge me for the visit.

Now I'm on another drug. This one made me sick and dizzy for the first couple of days, but that seems to have stopped now. The doctor warned me that it will probably make my hands and feet swell up, and might make it hard to walk, which will be fun for me, considering I walk an hour and a half every day.

Stupid pharmaceuticals industry. Stupid genetics. I hate them both.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Three to See the King

Perhaps you are familiar with the high weirdness of Magnus Mills' rather repetitive, hypnotic style of writing. If you are not, you could be forgiven for thinking, like Mister Monkey, that his books are boring. If you like him, though, you admire his ability to create whole worlds of the type you're more used to seeing in the animated films of the National Film Board of Canada.

In this book, a man lives on a windy plain in the middle of nowhere, in a house made entirely of tin. Things happen to him and around him that upset his world where he shovels the sand away from his house every morning. As usual, I hesitate to give much more away than that. This book doesn't have the same tension that some of his previous works do, because at no point is the man who lives in a house made entirely of tin doing anything he shouldn't be doing, and so at no point are you afraid he's going to get caught. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of incident and that Pinteresque sense that a lot is being said in a very short space of time.

The Constant Princess

I can't believe I've only read two new books in the last month and a half. Bit rubbish, no?

Anyway, here's Philippa Gregory again, with a book about Katherine of Aragon. Substantially less racy than her usual fare, but no less fun and interesting for all that. I never connected Katherine to Ferdinand and Isabella, and I never knew how long she was married (sorry, "married") for before she married Henry VIII. In fact, I knew very little about her, and now I know more. It's interesting also to read about the contrast between the Spanish, almost Moorish life that she came from and the English court that she came into. There was no privacy for women in the English court, no harem, no hiding from the king. If he wanted to come into your room and boss your ladies around, well, he just did. And if he wanted to make you have women he was planning to fuck as your ladies in waiting, well, he just did. And if he wanted to basically hold you as a hostage in a strange country, not pay you your allowance, betroth you to his son, and leave you sitting penniless in a little house somewhere while you figured out what to do, well, he just did that too.

It wasn't all gravy for the ladies, is essentially often Gregory's point. She makes it well.

Friday, May 04, 2007

NOOOOO! They be takin' away my Gilmore Girls!

It appears that this will be the final season, and the last episode will be broadcast next week. I am v. sad, as this has become one of my very, very favourite television programmes of all time. :(