Friday, February 29, 2008

Back to the shop

Yesterday I had my first ever shift as a volunteer in the bookshop on Parliament St. It was a pleasant afternoon, featuring nice chat with tourists, someone still looking for the Viking Museum despite the fact that I think it got rolled into Dublinia (must check this; people will ask me this every week from now till November), and a few young lads who tried halfheartedly to rob the till and get into the back room. Thanks to the managements' new (or since my time, anyway) security procedures, however, their efforts were fruitless. Take that, tossers (or rather don't).

Books bought: JPod by Douglas Coupland, which is kind of annoying and trying too hard, and Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, which was recommended to me last summer by Queenie. Result.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A public plea to the people who run the Irish Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

Please stop playing your poxy ad on the radio. Please. Please stop it. It's on every hour during Morning Ireland, and has been for what feels like over a year. Will you just be running it continuously now, forever? Well, please don't. We're sick of it. We couldn't give a fuck about entrepreneurs. In fact, we hate them now, thanks to you. If one my friends suggested to me that they were thinking of entering this award, I would hate them forever.

Just stop. Really. Stop.

Seriously. I'm not messing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Check out my IT guy's mad skillz!



health check

A couple of conversations I had at the Monkey Parents' 40th anniversary party at the weekend suggested that a) more people read my blog than I thought and b) that I scared the bejesus out of some people by my post about my panic attack.

The follow-up, then, is that I started taking anti-depressants, and now I feel much better. In fairness, there's a chance that simply admitting I was having anxiety issues in the first place might have made me feel better, but despite a recently-published study that suggests they don't work, the anti-depressants feel to me like they're working. Interestingly, according to Bad Science editor Ben Goldacre, the really interesting finding of that study is not that anti-depressants don't work (apparently that's not really what it says), but that drug companies continue to bury the studies they don't like, and are able to get away with it.

In any case, I only intend to take them for a few months in order to get my act together a bit. I'm thinking of trying cognitive behavioral therapy. It seems like a good time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rawr! (do not read if you have not seen Cloverfield)

Here are some things I really liked about Cloverfield:

It's short, and it cuts out all that crappy character development and hugging and learning that really messes up otherwise perfectly good monster movies.

It's loud enough all the way through that even if people are talking in the cinema, you can't hear them.

It's very exciting and genuinely bloody scary. It's also kind of sad. The party scene at the beginning is only short, but it's well written and well acted enough that you accept the basic niceness of the characters. Also, the fact that Robert goes through all that stuff to get to Beth makes you think that maybe, just maybe, they might get away with it, although you know they won't, because of the movie you're watching.

I also love the modernity of it. In the early days of movies, certain signifiers had to be included in order to make films easier for people to follow. If someone was leaving one location to go to another, you would have to see them leave, then see them travel, then see them arrive, because otherwise the audience would be confused about where it was or what was going on. The increased sophistication of audiences is something that Abrams's team has played with in their major TV shows: in Alias, they switched from one place to another with very little explanation of what was going on a lot of the time; in Lost, they switch between the present, the past, and the future with very little warning; in both cases, they simply rely on the audience to keep up or not care that they can't keep up. Cloverfield is the same. Why is there a monster? Don't know don't care. Where did all the other people from the party go? Don't know don't care. How did they get off the Brooklyn Bridge so fast, considering it looked so crowded? Don't know don't... actually, Mister Monkey did wonder about that a little bit.

What they've done is create the spine of a story, and rather than flesh it out themselves, they're going to let everyone who comes along later do that. In a similar fashion to the Max Brooks zombie books, I'm sure there'll be a massive outpouring of Cloverfield spinoff projects that will show up everywhere. It could be really good.

They also resisted the urge to throw in some monster movie tropes, despite setting the scene for them so clearly. Listing building with gaping open windows looking down toward the ground? Surely a great excuse for a fire, or rescuing a child, or a puppy. But there was nothing. Scrambling across the roof with the monster only blocks away? Surely someone is going to end up dangling off the building in a moment or two. Nope. No time, no time.

Also, some critics have complained about it playing on people's memories of 9/11 by using the images of frightened New Yorkers, covered in dust and milling about, as part of its scare tactics. But isn't that kind of what a good monster movie is supposed to do?

Here are some things I didn't really like about it:

The camerawork did give me the nausea a little bit (although that was maybe a function of the enormous, delicious, and hastily eaten Chinese meal that took place beforehand).

I couldn't understand why, the instant the monster hove into view, the women all turned into useless eejits while the men (one of whom, let's not forget, had been in love with the same woman for years and years and never managed to cowboy up and do anything about it) suddenly became all decisive and brave. Other people also have some race issues with the film (where are all the black people at? Oh, they're looting the electronics store), so maybe the movie could have less hidebound in both of those directions.

Sadly, I probably don't ever need to see it again, except out of pure academic interest. But it was a really enjoyable experience. I thoroughly appreciated the way they ended it with the scenes at Coney Island as well, given that the film is more like a fairground ride than anything else.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Eventful week!

So, where were we?

Well, after last week's exciting panic attack in the car, I went to the doctor and we had a long talk, and now I'm taking anti-depressants for a few months in order to get myself together a bit. So far I can honestly say that I've failed to exhibit any of the potentially terrifying side effects that I was told to expect, but I am a bit giddy and quite anxious a lot of the time. Also very sleepy. I believe this is similar to the way that antibiotics make you feel sicker before you start to feel better.

Then, on Friday morning, I had a run-in with my archnemesis. Her dog followed me again, like it sometimes does, and she went off to park somewhere far away, expecting it to run back to her. Except that she had parked out of sight, and the dog didn't see where she'd gone, so it didn't know where to run to, so it just followed me, with Milo and Cody barking at it the whole time (they're not as crazy about other dogs running up to them uninvited as they used to be when they were younger).

When I got back to my car, she was parked next to it, texting away on her phone and making no attempt at all to look for her dog. So I put my two in my car, went over to her, and said, "you know anything could happen to your dog while he's down the beach on his own and you're up here." She assured me, in the snobbiest voice possible (she actually said "Oh no, I can assure you...") that he would not bother anyone, nor get into a fight with another dog. She considered my suggestion that all anyone had to do was throw him a piece of cheese and steal him completely laughable (she fake laughed at it), despite the fact that he is a pure bred, unneutered boxer.

Finally I said "well, the fact is that according to the law the dog is supposed to be under your control, and if you can't even see him, then he can't be under your control, can he? So maybe you should get out of your car occasionally and walk him."

She then informed me that she was very lucky, because she doesn't need to walk. I, on the other hand, clearly do, because I look like some kind of Michelin man. She then suggested that perhaps her dog liked me so much because he "obviously likes the smell". She invited me to call both the guards and the dog warden on her, and offered me her mobile phone number so I could be sure to get the details right.

The problem is that I can't call the dog warden, or even the guards. Everyone on that beach walks their dog off the lead, and several people walk restricted breeds off the lead, and certainly unmuzzled, so we'd all be looking at fines if the dog warden started showing up, and nobody wants that. In general, everyone knows which dogs get along and which ones don't, and we stay out of each other's way when necessary and everyone tries not to be a nuisance to everyone else, and it's all pretty peaceful. What can you do when one person just insists on ruining that setup for everyone else?

I don't think she would even care if I did steal her dog. Which, by the way, I am very tempted to do.

Anyway, then last night me and Mam went to salsa, which turned out to be really good fun and the least intimidating exercise/dance class that I've ever attended. Mam came and got me so I didn't have to drive on the motorway, so it was okay. Since I started the medication I've only been driving short distances, because I kind of forget what I'm doing a little bit sometimes. I'm not sure I'm ready for the motorway just yet.