26 July 2008

Chocolate (Temple) Bar & Urban Kings

Today, I took the fam into Dublin city centre, primarily to sit back and watch my wife soak up Dublin's first Temple Bar Chocolate Festival. I'm not sure what we were expecting (life-size chocolate Molly Malone statues and chocolate fountains on every corner maybe?), but we were a bit disappointed by the lack of chocolateness around us as we wandered through Temple Bar. Turns out, the big chocolate "exhibition" isn't on until tomorrow in Meeting House Square. However, Kristy did manage to get into a lecture in the Film Base on the health benefits of chocolate. Did you know that raw cacoa beans are chalk full of anti-oxidants, neurotransmitters (sounds like Star Trek) and other things that are healthy for the brain? Unfortunately, with all of the processing and other ingredients that get thrown in to make chocolate, the health benefits are largely lost.

So while Kristy was in the seminar, Caitlyn and I headed over to an urban festival that Dublin City Council were putting on called Kings of Concrete. It was an interesting convergence of "establishment" (i.e., city government) and "anti-establishment" (urban youth culture). Lots of cool stuff going on: graffiti art, skateboard ramps, breakdance, parkour, hip-hop music, etc. One wonders: Are city officials giving urban youth an outlet to express themselves in a controlled environment? You know, let 'em get it out of their system a bit? Or are they trying to communicate that, despite the "no skateboarding" signs around the city and the relative lack of public space and tolerance for urban youth culture, the city really don't think there's anything inherently wrong with urban youth culture?

Whatever the case, the event seemed to be a big success and it continues tomorrow. I'm hoping to get to the parkour demo, but it's later in the day, at which point it's really up to how Caitlyn is doing. Here's a little video of what we saw today . . .

Dublin's "Kings of Concrete" Festival from Brandon Wellcome on Vimeo.

29 March 2008

Earth Hour 2008

Tonight, from 8-9pm, Dublin will be participating in the global Earth Hour. 24 major cities around the world are participating this year, including Sydney (where the idea apparently started), Copenhagen, Chicago, Atlanta, and Toronto. Businesses and individuals are being asked to turn off all non-essential lights and appliances for the hour as a way of communicating the need for action against global warming.

Have a look at these links for more:
EarthHour (Dublin)
CNN Report
Dublin Chamber of Commerce

17 March 2008

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

A little something from Slate V for Paddy's Day. Anybody else think "The Quiet Man" should be in there too? Yeah, yeah - I know it won 2 Oscars way back in the 50's, but I could barely sit through the entire thing. Gotta be one of the slowest moving plots.

15 March 2008

St. Patrick's Day Festival Baby Rave

There’s certainly something for everyone in Dublin for this year’s St. Patrick’s Festival - even for parents who miss their clubbin’ days! I took my daughter to SS Michael and John in the West end of Temple Bar yesterday for her first rave party, where “the only drug is calpol,” according to the group’s MySpace page. The Baby Rave is being put on for this year’s St. Patrick’s Festival by Belfast arts charity, Young at Art.


Even at five-and-a-half months old, Caitlyn was wide-eyed in wonder as she watched the colourful flower-shaped lights float up the walls and across the ceiling. The music was just the right volume to “thump,” but not so high that I felt my little one’s ears were at risk. The staff were also very helpful, friendly, and sensitive.

Just seeing the happy faces of the 3 and 4 year olds pushing the fit balls around the room was enough to make my daughter beam and even giggle. At times, the curious toddlers would come over to the felt padded islands where my daughter and I sat for a break, just to see the baby and reach a finger out to give a careful poke. (Parents were usually close behind with a cautious admonishment to “Be gentle with the baby.”)

The only inconvenient thing about the event was having to take the lift (and a small one at that) to get up to the first floor where the party was going down. Even then, it wasn't so much the lift as it was the people who went up ahead of us who could not figure out how to work the lift.

[UPDATE: A quick little video I threw together.]

11 March 2008

St. Patrick's Day in Dublin

Here in Dublin, we're counting down the days to the big St. Patrick's Day Festival, when all the world celebrates Ireland. The festival runs for five days here in Ireland and you can see a partial schedule of the festivities at StPatricksDay.ie. I say "partial" because it is the "official" festival of the tourism industry here in Ireland, but there will be plenty more happening with various art galleries, charities, pubs, restaurants, etc.

Our family just obtained tickets to go see Pearl at Docklands on Saturday evening. We're also discussing taking our 5-month-old to the Baby Rave (where "the only drug is calpol") on Saturday and the Big Day Out in Merrion Square on Sunday. That is, IF the weather cooperates more than it has over the last few days.

Along with the festival website, be sure to check in with DublinBlog.ie for more. Also have a look at our pictures from last years St. Paddy's Day parade here in Dublin, as well as the Dublin Blog Flickr group's pics.

Here's a little preview of what will be happening in the Docklands.

27 February 2008

Falling Slowly

Yesterday, The Irish Times featured a cartoon that brilliantly synchronized two facets of Irish current events: the Oscar award to Glen and Marketa and the Mahon Tribunal.

All I know about this Mahon tribunal is that it has something to do with the Taoiseach (pronouned "tee-shook" for you non-Irish - he's essentially the Prime Minister of Ireland) accepting money 10 or 20 years ago that he shouldn't have accepted and that this "tribunal" is going on and on and on and on.

As for the Oscar award for the film "Once," what a moving experience to see Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová performing that simple, beautiful song from a simple, beautiful film on Hollywood's biggest stage. People here in Dublin who are tuned in to the music scene have always known that Hansard is a brilliant song-writer. Too bad that the YouTube video of Markéta's little speech has been pulled, but props to Jon Stewart for bringing Markéta back onstage to share.

23 February 2008

Playing Tour Guide

Had a chance to play tour guide to my younger brother who was here for a week. Here's a video of some highlights.

12 February 2008

Fun with Population Statistics

Came across some figures from the Central Statistics Office today. In the 2006 census, there were 12,475 American expatriates living in Ireland. Seems like a lotta Yankees, until you consider that it's only about .3% of the entire Irish population. Given that just under 10% of the population are non-Irish, that means that Americans make up about 3% of all non-Irish people.

UK citizens (of which there are 112,548) make up about 2.7% of the population in Ireland and 26.8% of the non-Irish population. The CSO website doesn't seem to indicate how many of those UK citizens are from Northern Ireland versus Great Britain, but it would be interesting to find that out. Personally, I think I've met about 3 or 4 Northern Irish folks and about the same number from other parts of Britain living here in Dublin (2 English, 1 Welshman, and a Scottish girl).

The next largest group of non-Irish are Polish with 63,276 (including fellow Dublin Blogger, Oskar, and a lovely family of 4 living across the street from us), making up about 1.5% of the population in Ireland and 15% of the non-Irish population.

I'd say Ireland is becoming a pretty international place, though probably not as much as England or other parts of Europe just yet. And this international flavour is much more pronounced in Dublin. (On a side note, my wife and I had an interesting conversation with a young man from Iraq serving tables in a classy little restaurant in Cashel last summer.)

09 February 2008

Gourmet Fish 'n Chips & Lighting Up the Docklands

Last night, I took the family in to the town centre to have a look at the public art installation in the Docklands. On the way, we decided to stop by somewhere new for dinner. We'd been curious about The Dandelion across from St. Stephen's Green, so when the LUAS dropped us off, we strolled over to have a look at the menu. The early bird special seemed decently priced, especially in comparison to the all-American TGI Friday's next door. Two courses were €15.50 per person and included a few simple dishes like a hamburger, fish and chips, and a stir fry dish.

As we were escorted to our table, it was hard to miss how extravagantly retro the place was decorated. Didn't seem like we fit in, pushing our pram along with our 4-month-old sucking away on her soother, though at the same time it was relaxed. I walked around to have a better look at the restaurant a little bit and noticed that it could be rented out for private functions. It seemed very conducive for parties and celebrations. The food was amazing. I ordered the fish and chips and my wife ordered the stir fry. I hadn't realized how elegantly and perfectly balanced fish and chips could be! And my wife loved the stir fry.

Then it was off on the long trek over to the Docklands. Below are a few pictures from the Docklands installation called Lightwave 08. Our 4-month-old daughter is particularly captivated by lights, so it was fun to see the look of wonderment on her face as we strolled through Grand Canal Square.




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07 February 2008

A Brand New Film Festival with Potential

While it’s good to know that there is a tight community of adventure sports fans in Ireland, it’s unfortunate that none of them seem to own a computer with decent video editing software.

Last night, I attended half of the Wee Adventure Film Festival in The Sugar Club. I had planned on making my €10 entrance fee go all the way, particularly to see Shakinda’s VJ mashup of the film highlights at the end. However, I decided during the break, after having watched the first 8 films, that being forced to stand for another 2 hours through dodgy home-made movies was just not worth it. It seemed that virtually all of the seating at tables in the club were reserved for the 16 teams of people (and their friends and family) who had submitted films. The rest of the space in the aisles and at the back was filled to capacity with the rest of us, holding our beers close and apologizing to others around us anytime we shifted our weight or brought our pint to our mouth.

While most of the films were given minimal time in cheap editing software, much of the footage was indeed an adrenaline rush. In particular, the second film portrayed skydivers falling backward out of a perfectly good hot air balloon. Despite the shoddy camera work and annoying, deafening sound of the wind in the microphone, a collective gasp swept over the room as the festival audience obviously caught a glimpse of what it’s like to free-fall into wide open spaces.

Other highlights of the first half of the festival included the poetic way in which the first rock climbing film was narrated. Also, a kayaking film shot in Norway was probably the closest thing to a professionally produced adventure documentary and an orienteering film included some quality filming and artistic presentation.

I’m sure the organizers of the event were well-pleased with the turnout to this festival debut. I can only hope that the buzz and excitement from this year will motivate the organizers to give incentive for more quality offerings at the next festival, should there be one. I imagine there could be endorsement deals from various equipment/clothing companies as a result. Best of all, a growing, ever-improving festival such as this could go a long way in promoting adventure sports in Ireland.

But for heaven’s sake, don’t let the athletes themselves shoot or edit the films. At least not without sending them to some sort of adventure filmmaker’s seminar first.

04 February 2008

Dublin Goings On

Always lots going on in Dublin. This week in particular, I'm hoping to stop by an art installation in the Docklands. On Wednesday night, The Sugar Club is hosting an extreme sports film festival, featuring guest VJ Shakinda, whom I had a chance to meet a few months back through some mutual friends. Also this month, the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival is on from the 15th - 24th. Last year, Once was all the rage at the festival, after gaining popularity at other European film events. In fact, it sold out within hours of the Dublin film festival box office opening up.

On the 14th, my brother is over for a week. Always enjoyable having family over to visit and give us a chance to show off this beautiful part of the world that we live in. Aside from just strolling through St. Stephen's Green and down Grafton Street, I usually also enjoy taking people to the Book of Kells and the Guinness Storehouse. However, with my li'l bro here, it'll be a unique opportunity to stop by some pubs that I haven't had a chance to visit yet. The Blue Light, The Porterhouse, and Grogan's are at the top of the list.

28 January 2008

Trad Story-Telling in Temple Bar

On Saturday, my family and I ventured in to the city centre to see a friend from Prague. While we were there, we caught some of the traditional story-telling that was happening in conjunction with the Irish Trad Festival. It was interesting, but not really much more than your typical street performer. In fact, there was a busker in Temple Bar Square doing observational / improvisational humour in between the story-tellers and he was actually far more entertaining. With that said, it worked well for the trad festival and seemed to be a hit with the kids.



After having a chat with our friend in The Joy of Coffee, we headed West to the edge of Temple Bar for Dublin's finest kebab at Zaytoon's (arguably also Dublin's dearest kebab - a tenner and some change for a meal combo.) After dinner, in my pre-fatherhood days, it would've been straight across to The Porterhouse for a pint and some Irish trad. But alas, a 4-month-old can only take so much action in the city.

(Note to parents: Bit of a rough ride taking a pram through Temple Bar, unless it's got big wheels and state-of-the-art suspension.)

26 January 2008

Trad in Black & White

Saw this brilliant picture on Flickr the other day. Really captures the atmosphere of an Irish trad session. I'm usually impressed by the group of musicians in a given pub session, but it's when I really focus my attention in on one musician that I'm blown away. (Granted, it's not usually the bodhran person.) Really wish this pic was offered in higher resolution!

Off to hear some traditional story telling in Temple Bar after lunch. Hopefully the Little Miss will allow us to stick around long enough to catch some music as well.

23 January 2008

Temple Bar Irish Trad Festival

One of my favourite bits of Irish culture is the Irish traditional music session where typically you'll have up to 10 extremely talented musicians sitting in the pub with their drink of choice, jamming together to a host of traditional Irish music. Instruments range from the bodhran, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and a small accordian-like instrument called a concertina, among others. My favourite spots in South Dublin for such craic are Johnnie Foxes pub (a well-known tourist stop), which features a whole range of Irish trad, including the folk singing and Irish dancing, and The Wishing Well in Blackrock (Monday nights).

This evening, the Temple Bar Irish Trad Festival kicks off with a host of concerts, workshops, children’s activities, and other events. For some of the shows, you must book tickets, but a good number of the pubs in Temple Bar (more than usual, anyway) will be hosting trad sessions at no charge. Festival goers will also have opportunity to meet the various musicians and performers each night at 11pm in the Project Arts Centre for conversation and craic.

My family and I are also looking forward to the action out on the street where there’ll be bagpipes and traditional storytelling. Hopefully the Dublin weather forecast will stay favourable!

Here's some rough footage of a trad session at a pub called The Celt here in Dublin: