06 November 2007

Street Performer

Walking down Grafton Street on a clear day, you're likely to run in to a crowd surrounding a street performer outside Stephen's Green shopping centre. Usually, I peer over the heads of the onlookers for a moment and decide it's not worth my time as I head back to the LUAS or to whatever meeting I'm already running late for.

Today, however, I stopped briefly for a routine glance at the unofficial "Grafton Street Performers' Stage" - and got hooked. It wasn't the fact that your man with a Kiwi accent was doing an impressive job of juggling basketballs or that he could also balance himself on a unicycle 3 meters high. I think I was most impressed with the way he made people a part of his act.

For example, at one stage, he called on a 5 year-old boy to hold the basketballs. Now, the sight of a small boy holding 3 basketballs, each one twice the size of the boy's head, is funny enough. (See picture below.) But as he interacted with the boy and joked around with him, he cleverly made the boy a participant in the act without patronizing him. He did the same with the other 3 adults that he pulled from the audience.

Brilliant stuff. Makes me look forward to the next Street Performance World Championship next summer!



25 October 2007

School Demolition

Just got this video/audio track from a friend today. Hilarious, even if it isn't really an 8 year old girl. I don't know who it really is, but my guess is that it's a radio DJ speaking through some digital effects or something.

Dublin Babies

Late last month, our daughter Caitlyn was born at Holles St. maternity hospital. Needless to say, I haven't given a lot of time to blogging since then. I will say this however - Dublin is a great place to have a baby! We used the community midwives scheme through the Irish national health service and we were very impressed. Not only were the midwives really helpful in the months leading up to my wife's delivery day and during the labour, but they also dropped by our house for a visit every day afterward for a week. Those of you who've gone through the experience of having a baby understand how helpful that is for clueless first-time parents!

19 September 2007

Irish Breakfast Blog

I'm a big fan of the Full Irish Breakfast (even manage to swallow the black pudding down these days!) Sometimes I'll even order it for lunch, if it's on offer. That's while you'll understand my excitement about a great blog that I found today that will assist me in my search for the perfect breakfast in Dublin - Rashers and Eggs. Never imagined a blog could make my mouth water so much.

18 September 2007

Cartridge Green

Here in Dublin, there's a brilliant way to both save money and be environmentally sound in your use of computer printer ink. It's called Cartridge Green and there are four shops in Ireland (three in Dublin). I took my black ink cartridge in to the shop in Leopardstown Road today and it cost me only 10 euro to refill it. That's about half as much as it would cost to drive down to PC World and replace the cartridge with a new one!

Cartridge Green are also promoting franchising opportunities. So if you're an entrepreneur type, have a look at those options as well.

15 September 2007

A Walk Thru Dublin Culture Night

Kristy and I were out for Dublin Culture Night on Friday. First, we met up with a friend for a quick bite to eat at ZaytoonTHE BEST kebab place that I’ve found in Dublin. From Camden, it was over to play tourist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral where they were offering free entrance and guided tours. (Yes, I know they need to revamp their website!) The choir rehearsal that was happening during the tour was a nice touch. It’s a beautiful cathedral, but I’m glad we were able to bypass the €5 entrance fee that’s usually required.

From there, it was over to a brilliant new art gallery called Gallery Number One on Castle Street, directly across from Leo Burdock’s chippy. The folks at Gallery Number One have given the place a very cool vibe conducive to just chilling out in one of the sofas, surfing the internet or reading one of a handful of art books laying around. There’s a collection of live concert photography, as well as a few paintings hanging on the walls. Next door is a design agency called Ebow which seems to be run by the same artist(s).

Next, we strolled down Lord Edward Street to Parliament Street where we popped our heads in to the Oxfam bookshop. They had some live music going but it was bit crowded so we took off for Meeting House Square where they were supposed to be showing a film in the open air called “About Adam.” We're pretty sure it was some other slower-moving film that was actually showing.

After that, it was beginning to get difficult for my wife, who’s now 37 weeks pregnant, so we headed over to O’Neill’s for a seat and a few drinks. So, in the end, we only made 4 out of the 100 events, which we were okay with. I wouldn't think that the organizers would expect people to do much more than that. Everywhere we went in the city centre, we saw people pulling out their Dublin Culture Night brochures and maps, so it was obviously a big success. Looking forward to it again next year!

05 September 2007

Shakespeare in St. Stephen's Green

It was a warm, dry (though humid) day in Dublin. Having come into town in search of WiFi and good coffee, I discovered the city bustling with activity.

The buskers were out, of course, taking advantage of the favourable weather. buskin


Dave was also out, doing his chalk art thing, though shifted from the corner of College Green and Grafton to the median in the middle of College Green. When he explained to me that the Guards had kicked him off the corner, I told him he’s doing the city a great service and that they should know better! I also informed him about Dublin Culture Night (and, later in the day, delivered a brochure to him). He wasn’t sure if he would take advantage of the evening’s “cultured crowds” moving through the city and keep up the chalk drawing, or try to attend a few of the free events for himself.

Later, in St. Stephen’s Green, Public Shakespeare were putting on a free performance of The Taming of the Shrew at the W.B. Yeats memorial. It was an absolutely brilliant show and the performers often walked through the crowd and interacted with the audience, evoking both laughter and applause. It’s been on twice every day, at 1 and 4pm, since 26th August. This Saturday will be the final performances.




Also in St. Stephen’s Green is an installation of wildlife photos by South African photographer, Steve Bloom. CLICK HERE for a sampling of some prints that are for sale from his website.


04 September 2007

Dublin Culture Night

The second annual Dublin Culture Night is happening next Friday (14th September) involving 82 venues (museums, galleries, theatres, libraries, etc.) and 100 free events. Events will include such highlights as free tours of Dublin Castle, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and Croke Park, lectures on Dublin literary figures, art exhibitions, a film making workshop for kids, and loads more. Whether or not you decide to attend any of the free events, Dublin Culture Night will be difficult to avoid with guides and street entertainers spreading out across the city to answer questions and point people in the right direction.

As a preview to Culture Night, The Dubliner Magazine are holding a debate this Friday night exploring the notion that Ireland has lost its cultural identity. The lively banter will involve writers and musicians such as Mik Pyro from Republic of Loose and Sunday Independent journalist Victoria Mary Clarke.

Once in America

So it turns out that the independent Irish film "Once" is having loads of success in the U.S. It played at the Dublin Film Festival last winter, but sold out in a matter of hours. Critics are raving about it and Bob Dylan even asked The Frames to tour with him in Australia. (CLICK HERE for Channel 4's report.)

Can't wait for the film to make it's way back to Ireland at some point!

22 August 2007

Indeed, the Sun DOES Show Up in Ireland!

It's the end of August, and summer has finally agreed to show up! The sun is out, it's 21° (70°F), and it's meant to reach a blistering high of 22° by Friday. Aaaaah, the Irish summer.

Just in time for the late summery weather, the Festival of World Cultures is happening this weekend in Dun Laoghaire. Also, on Friday evening, rumour has it that Fionn Regan will be playing Grafton Street in front of HMV. Looking forward to that! In recent weeks, I've really come to appreciate Fionn's music. Later, Friday night, I'll head over to the Crawdaddy to catch DeVotchka.

Should be a great weekend here in Dublin!

21 August 2007

New Organic Restaurant - The Farm

On our way to Lemon Crepe & Coffee Co. (Dawson Street) for lunch the other day, Kristy and I noticed a new restaurant across the street called The Farm. After taking a quick look at the lunch menu, we decided that the pricing seemed reasonable and it would be good to try something new. Turns out, it was a great decision!

The Farm boasts all natural, organic food on the menu, including a coffee bar with organic Bewleys brand espresso drinks. I decided to go with the hamburger off the lunch menu (admittedly, not a very adventurous choice) and I must say, it was probably one of the tastiest burgers I've had. I don't know if it was the seasoning they used or the organic nature of the beef or a combination of both, but the flavour of that simple hamburger will have me going back for more! Kristy had a pasta dish (penne) with meatballs and really liked it as well.

Between the two of us, our lunch bill came to about €28, which included a half pint of Heineken for myself and a bottle of fruit juice for my wife. Considering that most organic food vendors put a premium on the “organic” label, I'd say it's a great value. The staff were also very friendly and helpful, which is always a big plus.

As impressed as I was with The Farm, however, it's not to say that the Calzone crepe at Lemon will lose it's place in the top rankings of my favourite lunch meals in the city!

16 August 2007

Sand Sculptures

Upon arriving in Dublin this time last year, my wife and I stumbled across an excellent sand sculpture exhibition in the courtyard of Dublin Castle, put on by Duthain Dealbh. This year, they've done it again with an Irish literature theme. (Last year's theme was "the 5 senses.") The exhibition reflects the works of such literary figures as James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Flannery O'Brien, and Samuel Becket. (Click on one of the pictures below to see more.)



19 July 2007

Funniest Man in Dublin

Recently Kristy and I heard about “secret” performances that David O’Doherty has been giving this week for free at The International Bar. So we invited a few friends to meet us for some good craic at “The DOD Show.” Unfortunately, the comedy theatre above the International Bar is quite small, so it filled up really quick and only one of our friends was early enough to be able to join us before they stopped letting people in.

Even though David was just rehearsing some new material in preparation for Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, he was in good form last night. Even when he stumbled around a bit on stage to put things together, you got the sense that he didn’t actually have to put that much into it to be funny. He’s just naturally a hilarious bloke. David’s act usually includes his signature use of cheap Casio keyboards to perform songs such as the one in the YouTube clip below. I haven't seen a lot of comedians in Dublin, but O'Doherty is one of the funniest stand up acts I've seen anywhere.

Here in Ireland, you can catch David on RTE2 for “The Modest Adventures of David O’Doherty.” Also, CLICK HERE to go to David’s MySpace page.

13 July 2007

Food & Drink in Dublin

So if you find yourself visiting Dublin from some other part of the world and you were shooting for summer with the hope that the weather would be cooperative, you've picked the wrong summer. But alas, Dublin has a great restaurant/pub/cafe scene to find shelter in. One resource that we've begun to use a lot is MenuPages.ie. Whether you're looking for a place to eat/drink or you want to look into a place you heard about from someone or somewhere else, it's a very helpful and thorough web site for all things Dublin cuisine. There are lots of personal reviews submitted by users, as well as maps and directions, and glimpses at menus.

The Dubliner magazine also gives a few helpful "best of" lists. CLICK HERE for their review of the 100 best bars in Dublin or HERE for "The Dubliner 100 Best Restaurants" with a review for each place.

07 July 2007

Strange Day in the News & A Riverdance Experience

Thursday was a very busy day in the news here in Dublin. During a regatta event for teens in Dun Laoghaire harbour, the weather went bad rather suddenly and capsized more than a dozen boats. (CLICK HERE for video coverage from RTE.) Earlier in the day, at the "Dead Zoo," a stone staircase collapsed on a group of school teachers involved in a training programme. If you've ever walked through the Natural History Museum, you won't be surprised at this. It's a fascinating place, but it's obviously been around for a while and probably due for some structural upgrades.

News stories aside, the wife and I had a brilliant time at Riverdance later that night at the Gaiety Theatre. You don't have to be a big fan of dance to be truly awed by this classy performance. The live musicianship, the theatrics, the lighting and effects, and of course the phenomenal dance routines combined to create an absolutely stunning theatre experience. Starting out with a Celtic flavour, the show did an amazing job of capturing the earthy, mythological feel of ancient Ireland. Late in the first act, a Spanish/Flamenco-flavoured theme was introduced, followed by a Russian dance routine - both of which were visually pulsating and brimming with aesthetic brilliance. The second act took on more of an 18th/19th century theme and collided with a more modern jazz tap routine that was very entertaining.

The show will move on from Dublin at the end of August and will tour through Europe and North America. We considered it a little extra special to be able to catch the show here in Ireland.

06 July 2007

American Independence Day in Ireland

For our first Independence Day in Ireland, the wife and I went up to Swords (just north of Dublin) to hang out with some American colleagues and grill up some burgers. After I stood with an umbrella over our friend as he manned the BBQ, someone else mentioned that it's been one of the wettest, coolest summers he can remember here in Ireland since the 80's. Fortunately, we got our holiday tour in around the Ring of Kerry in early June before all the wet nastiness set in.

After our little "4th of July" get together, I began to wonder when Ireland celebrate their independence from the Brits. Funny enough, the only thing I came across was that St. Patrick's Day is supposed to be the day when the Irish memorialize their independence. I'm going to try and remember to test that out with my Irish friends because my hunch is that not a lot of Irish folk realize that St. Patrick's Day is also Irish Independence Day.

I'm guessing Michael Collins would not be happy about that! But maybe that's just because I'm a Yankee and we get kinda weird about patriotism. =) Having said that, I did NOT wear any "red, white & blue," but rather a grey t-shirt that says "Mad for Trad" that I got from Hairy Baby. How's that for patriotism . . .

28 June 2007

Old City, New Dreams Review

Just submitted the following post on DublinBlog.ie.

The Old City, New Dreams event last night at the Mill Theatre in Dundrum was very characteristic of its host publication, The Dubliner magazine: a little satire and humour, a little serious intensity (actually quite unusual for The Dubliner), and a little controversy – though decidedly far less controversy than the debacle with Tiger Woods’ wife last autumn. The general idea of the week’s Main Event was a) to hear from a variety of public figures in Dublin about how to make the city a better place to live and b) to elicit participation from the audience. In fact, The Dubliner’s editor, Trevor White, actually invited the audience to interrupt and throw things such as “popcorn or old socks” at the presenters if there was any disagreement. Unfortunately, to this blogger’s great disappointment, no such drama ensued. Had there been a contingent of England Premiership fans, I’m sure it would’ve been a different story.

DJ and concert promoter, Gerry Godley, started out with a rather vague answer to all of Dublin’s problems by quoting The Beatles – “all you need is love.” Though it later became clearer that he was suggesting a public agency to promote culture in the city centre (I think), Trevor summarized his answer numerous times throughout the evening by saying “Gerry Godley wants to promote more free sex – is that what you were getting at Gerry?”

Next up was comedian Arhondia and, as you might expect, she rose from the table to present her solution with a mini stand up comedy act. It didn’t go ever very well, though I’d be willing to giver her a second chance at Battle of the Axe on a Tuesday night. Her solution was free elocution lessons to give all Dubliners North Dublin accents.

Human rights expert and politician Valerie Bresnihan gave an emotionally intense plea to reduce crime and poverty by sending mental health workers from the state into the homes of patients. Though her tone didn’t exactly match the winsome atmosphere that Trevor tried to establish at the beginning, in the end her argument won the audience over.

Feargal Quinn submitted his recommendation to put a roof over the Grafton Street and Henry Street shopping districts. Irish Daily Mail’s Paul Drury put in his bid to preserve the traditional Irish pub in Dublin with a return to traditional Irish music and Guinness served at room temperature. In contrast, cheeky columnist Max McGuinness put forward his recommendation to leave nostalgia behind and ban the Irish language, Bloomsday, and Guinness altogether. Sarah Owens used the occasion to launch her own personal campaign to elect Mr. Tayto as Mayor of Dublin. (She is, afterall, in the advertising business.) And finally, Senate candidate, Stephen Douglas, suggested a plan to “evaporate traffic” in the city centre.

After the night got rolling, there was some response and interaction from various members of the audience. However, it probably could’ve used a handful of football fans or even WTO protesters to spice things up a bit. Overall, it was good craic and a great idea from The Dubliner magazine. The free cocktails at the end were a particularly nice touch. Old City, New Dreams continues for the next two nights at Dundrum’s Mill Theatre.

21 May 2007

Irish Elections

It hasn't been easy to learn about Irish politics, even in this election season. This video was a big help in at least understanding what the political parties stand for.

Hmmmmmm . . . or maybe not.
(HT: ElBlogador)

A Walk Through Dublin

Seems like every time I walk through town these days, something interesting is happening, especially on a beautiful day like today.

I stopped by to chat with Dave (chalk artist in the picture below) and mentioned THESE GUYS. He said that he was thinking about doing some 3D chalk art himself. I also noticed a guy on stilts on the same corner as Dave. I think he was part of a promotional thing for a bank or something.


At the top of Grafton Street, something else got my attention: A life size Halo action figure. It was a promo for Halo 3 and for an XBox Live Gaming Centre on S. William Street. Didn't have a chance to check out the gaming centre, but it's now on my radar.


And finally, when I got to the LUAS at St. Stephen's Green, I noticed a group of TV cameras crowding around someone. I think he's a politician, probably chatting about the upcoming elections. He looks familiar. I should probably know who he is. Ooops.


07 May 2007

Dublin Video Collage

02 May 2007

Free Drama Performances

Ireland is well known for its historical wealth of theatrical works, boasting the likes of Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, George B. Shaw, and Samuel Becket among the ranks of Irish playwrights. Kristy and I have been talking for some time now about catching a show at the Gaiety or Abbey theatres. (Looking to see Riverdance at the Gaiety sometime in July.)

One thing we've got in the diary for sure is a free drama event that DUN Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council are hosting for two weekends this month called 'Centre Stage.' Over the course of the festival, there will be 6 shows, though it doesn't sound like they'll all be full length features. (For example, a group called the Balally Players will be performing 'scenes from' Much Ado About Nothing.)

Should be some good craic and, of course, you can't beat the price. =)

30 April 2007

Famine Memorial

Originally uploaded by BKWellcome.
Took some time to take in the Famine Memorial site down the street from the Customs House over the weekend. Incredibly moving memorial. It captures the despair and sorrow of that dark time in Irish history well.

While many historical interpretations and analyses have been offered over the years, here are a few general facts:

  • took place from 1845-52
  • roughly 1 million people perished from starvation and disease
  • a further 1 million people emigrated
  • famine due in part to a potato blight caused by a fungus, and lead to massive crop failure
  • While most of the voluntary relief came from Britain (via the Quakers), historians also note that the British government (Ireland was a part of the UK at the time) demonstrated gross negligence in it's relief efforts. (Okay, maybe this point is moving away from the "general facts" side of things to "interpretation.")
  • The potato blight returned in 1860, 1879, 1890, and 1897 with further starvation and disease, though far less severe than the first famine.
A few quotes from Ireland: A Short History:
"[The Famine] established bitterness and deep resentment towards Britain, which has also had long-standing consequences." (p. 59)

"This overwhelmingly agricultural economy led to three important preconditions which made the Famine worse when it came: overpopulation, poverty and dependence on the potato as the main crop and food source." (p. 60)

". . . perhaps most significantly, the Famine placed the possibility of emigration permanently in the Irish rural mind." (p. 72)

26 April 2007

Dave, Dublin Street Artist

One of the consistent features you're likely to come across as you walk through Dublin town centre is on the corner of College Green and Grafton streets, right across from Trinity College, where Dave does his meticulous art work. I've chatted with Dave a few times and he's always happy to have a conversation. Something you might recognize pretty quickly is that Dave has an English accent. At some point, I'm hoping to ask him how long he's been in Dublin and, in particular, how long he's been working College Green.

The picture above is a new project Dave's begun where he's actually drawing on the pavement with chalk. When he's not there, it's covered up with some sort of canvas and weighed down by a few traffic cones. In my opinion, it's people like Dave who bring a personal familiarity and artistic charm to Dublin. Now, if we can just get him to do something a little more like this . . .

12 April 2007

South Dublin in Ruins

Recently, I’ve discovered a few historical sites of interest on the outskirts of South Dublin, all within a 10 minute drive from our estate. The gorgeous weather over Easter weekend afforded Kristy and I the opportunity to explore them.

First, there’s Kilgobbin Castle, located on what looks to be private property on Kilgobbin Road. However, the large gates are always open and the castle is far removed from the residence. The castle (or what’s left of it) is only a few walls overgrown with wild shrubbery and locals just think of it as a pile of rubble. However, given the height of the walls, there’s still enough there to imagine what it may have looked like when it was in use, circa 17th century.

Just up the road further into Stepaside are the ruins of Kilgobbin Church and cemetery. Also at the site is a granite high cross from the 12th century which was uncovered in the early 1800’s.

Moving on past Stepaside, through Kiltiernan and down to Rathmichael is another castle known as Puck’s Castle (pictured below). Situated in a farmer’s field, it has a great view of Dublin and the bay. King James II is known to have visited the castle in 1690 after he was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne.

Down a little further and up a gravel road is what remains of Rathmichael Church. According to Megalithomania.com, some of the stones hanging on the walls of the church show traces of pre-Celtic Neolithic art forms. (This of course isn’t to suggest that the actual church has been around since then, given the fact that neither Christianity nor "churches" existed.) While we were there, we noticed that the wall surrounding the church yard was very much intact, though overgrown in places. The place feels very secluded, until you stop long enough to realize you can hear traffic on the M50 in the distance.

Tom over at Megalithomania.com documents loads of these kinds of things around Ireland and even provides GPS coordinates for the ultra-nerdy. He also provides decent directions to the sites that we visited in particular.

26 March 2007

Big Day in Northern Ireland

It's been slow, but the process continues to move forward for Northern Ireland. (CLICK HERE for the NY Times article and HERE for the BBC.) Today, Ian Paisley (the hard-nosed British loyalist) and Gerry Adams (formerly tied to a terrorist organization) sat down at a table for the first time to discuss power sharing between the two parties. Beginning on May 8th, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein will begin governing the UK province together, with Sinn Fein continuing to press for a united Ireland and the DUP insisting on staying tied to the UK.

In our Irish history class, the wife and I have been learning about how, for hundreds of years, successive kings of England tried to subjugate the Irish through colonization, as well as both legal and religious legislation. (In fact, in 1366 Britain even outlawed Irish people from entering cathedrals in Ireland.) From the mid-12th century on into the early 20th century, this was Ireland's relationship with Britain. It was in 1609 that the Ulster Plantation began in northeastern Ireland under James I. Lands were taken from Catholic Irish landowners and given to Protestant English colonialists.

Given the history of the conflict from an outside objective view, it's fairly easy to see how the UK's occupation of N. Ireland wasn't fair or just to begin with. However, given the situation today in a democratic society, with a small majority of N. Ireland's population preferring to stay connected to the UK, there doesn't seem to be any other realistic option but to allow democracy to run it's course. Obviously, I've simplified things down quite a bit here, but for the readers in the United States, this is the best summary I can offer (minus the bloodshed and the atrocities from both sides).

17 March 2007

11 March 2007

The Right to Live Out Your Spiritual Code

Early this last week, there was an editorial article from the Irish Times in which some remarkable statements made by Ireland's current Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, were applauded. The statements were made at the end of February when Ahern spoke to a group of inter-faith representatives at Dublin Castle and expressed his concern to keep faith and religion in the public square. The Taoiseach was quoted as saying that people who were promoting “a form of aggressive secularism . . . would deny a crucial dimension of the dignity of every person and their rights to live out their spiritual code within a framework of lawful practice which is respectful of the dignity and rights of all citizens. It would be a betrayal of the best traditions of Irish republicanism to create such an environment.”

Previous to this quote, the journalist speaks of the word “tolerance” with a different kind of contempt than what we're typically used to seeing in the media. “. . . [Whereas] those who engage in such superstitions are to be 'tolerated', they are also to be regarded as engaging in a near-obsolescent and unmodern activity. Our society seems merely to put up with people who believe in God because such 'tolerance' is part of our liberal ideology.” (Surely he's speaking of European society and not Irish society!)

In one sense, this is ironic in a country where an inseparable mixture of religion, politics, and national identity has brought violence, division and deep resentment. As a result, one might be tempted to think people would be leaving their religious roots in droves here in Ireland. However, for various reasons, this is largely not the case. Irish people may be increasingly disillusioned with the institutionalized version of their national religion, but it appears that they are not ready to throw out belief in God altogether. Recently I came across some statistics from 2002 which said that of the 3.9 million people in Ireland, 500 claimed “atheism” (that's .01%!) and about 138 thousand claimed “no religion” (3.5%). Figures from the latest census in 2006 are due to be released later this year.

It might also be tempting to think that the Irish are a rather gullible, superstitious lot, caught in the grip of their antiquated embrace of religion, due in part to their tireless reaction to their British oppressors. However, a closer look reveals a much more thoughtful, well-educated understanding of humanity's spiritual impulse. The “spiritual code” that Mr. Ahern spoke of in his speech was informed by “considerable evidence that [religion] is, in fact, a natural and essential element of the human psyche,” to quote our Irish Times journalist.

Whereas many in today's world will point to the wars and other damage that religion has brought to humanity (eg., Richard Dawkins), a growing number of people recognize that religion and evil done in the name of religion are not the same thing. Apparently, that includes the Irish.

28 February 2007

Croke Park History

Just got wind of this ITV news report from last week. It looks ahead to the Six Nations rugby match that happened this last Saturday. It's a nice little summary of the historical significance of the match that subsequently happened without any reported problems whatsoever.

15 February 2007

Burgeoning Café Culture

After having lived a few years in an English town completely bereft of good coffee shops, I've been quite pleased with the number of cafés here in Dublin. In fact, according to an article in this month's edition of The Dubliner magazine, cafés are on the rise in Ireland's capital city by 25% in the last five years. The reason for this growth is likely the amount of disposable income in the pockets of Dubliners (ie., The Celtic Tiger).

The Dubliner article also argues that pubs are a fading cultural quirk of the past and lists the stereotypical elements of Dublin's public houses: loud music, bad food (if any), and uncomfortable seating. Personally, I've been to plenty of great Irish pubs with decent food and an environment quite conducive to socializing, but for some reason I don't think The Dubliner is known for looking at the good things in Irish tradition.

So, what are the necessary ingredients to a great café? Ambiance, comfortable seating, quality food/drink, and friendly staff. This last ingredient is my own preference and is probably reinforced by a bad experience I had recently. (I realize the price for a take-away coffee is often lower, but I never thought I'd get kicked out of an empty café for taking a seat with my paper cup!)

The Dubliner brings up some other pertinent issues in a very balanced way, like the influence of globalization (hello, Starbucks!), and the efforts of pub owners to adapt to the café culture demand. Interestingly enough, in regards to globalization, the magazine article is quick to point out that, while Starbucks gets a bad rap for its obnoxious saturation marketing, they're not the only company with an eye on world domination. Ireland's own O'Brien's sandwich shops boast 300 outlets in 12 countries.

Ireland is known around the world for friendly people and good conversation, among other things. Seems to me that a thriving café scene only serves to uphold that reputation!

10 February 2007

A Saturday in Dublin

Kristy and I went into the city centre to explore today. In particular, I wanted to visit Café Irie for lunch in the Temple Bar District. This month's issue of The Dubliner magazine has them listed as the top café in the city. It's a small, second-story place across from Luigi Malones and Urban Outfitters. There's only seating for about 15-18 people or so, but the people are very friendly and I was quite impressed with the food, including the coffee. In fact, it might need to become a regular stop-in whenever I'm in the city. (No Starbucks for this Yankee.)

After lunch, we sauntered over to check out the Saturday Food Market. The smells and sights made us wish we hadn't just eaten! We already have plans to go back next Saturday afternoon, only this time with empty stomachs.

Next, we stopped by the Oxfam book shop on Parliamant street and picked up “The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats” for €6. Then it was back through Temple Bar where we dropped in at the Project Arts Centre just in time to see a group leaving for The Rain Party. In keeping with the art theme, we wandered down to the Temple Bar Gallery and Studios for a look through Matt Stokes' documentary exhibition on early 90's “cave raves” in the UK's Lake District.

For the first time, we also finally stopped in at the Dublin Tourism churchy-looking building. I picked up the Dublin International Film Festival programme and got really tempted to purchase the required membership to the Irish Film Institute in order to get in to some of the showings. As I was looking through the schedule, I realized that it's happening during the same week that I'll be out of town visiting my brother on business in Spain. DOH! Maybe next year.

Finally, before heading back to the LUAS, we stopped in at St. Teresa's. Always a peaceful break from the hustle and bustle of life in Dublin.

07 February 2007

National Museum of Ireland

My wife and I are taking an Irish history course here in Dublin and for today's class, we were taken on a tour through the National Museum. Some of the more recent (and gruesome) findings in the museum include the remains of human bodies that were preserved in various peat bogs around the country. The one we saw today was killed some 4 or 5 hundred years before the birth of Christ, yet it was so well preserved that Gardai were able to take fingerprints that were as clear as any fingerprints they take from living people today!

One of the comments by our tour guide had to do with the popular ideology of a peaceful Ireland in ages past that was something close to a utopia of sorts. I've heard other Irish folk talk about this teaching in the context of a search for Irish national identity. In some ways, I guess it's the same way with whatever country one happens to be from. Where we've come from as a collective people informs our national identity, so whatever we can do to romanticize or idealize that past is the tendency.

As for Ireland, this has to be met with the reality of human sacrifices and a certain level of "barberism," as our tour guide put it today. The pre-historic man we saw had been ceremoniously dismembered and mutilated, presumably in an effort to bring agricultural fertility to the land.

04 February 2007

A Big Weekend in Sport

It's a big weekend in sport, here in Ireland. Last night was a big occasion for the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association). At first I was having a difficult time trying to figure out what all the hype was about, but it appeared that the Gaelic Football match between Dublin and Tyrone was the first match to be played at night under some new flood lights at Croke Park. According to the author of this RTE article, all the fanfare will probably be looked at as a bit of hyperbole in the future. As for this Yankee living Dublin, it looked like hyperbole happening before my eyes in the present. I'm pretty sure I heard some GAA or Croke Park official say in an interview before the match, “this is the biggest event of the weekend in the northern hemisphere.” Right. Never mind the Six Nations tournament happening throughout the weekend. (Yep, that's people in at least SIX nations who'll be watching the rugby matches.) And I don't think anyone told him about the 232 countries who'll be watching the American Super Bowl today, with a potential viewing audience of 1 billion people.

The GAA's self-aggrandizing aside, I watched some Gaelic Football today on the telly (a re-broadcasting of “the weekends biggest event in the northern hemisphere”) and I rather enjoyed it. I wouldn't mind learning more about it and picking a team and maybe even heading over Croke Park for a match or two. One of the refreshing things about the game is that it's an amateur sport. I don't think any of the players make a living at it, which means that fans don't have to put up with egotistical celebrity athletes like those of American pro sports and European football.

As for tonight's big event, I'm hoping for an exciting game. Kick-off is at 23.25 here in Ireland and I'm hoping it's a contest worth staying up until 2.30 in the morning to watch.

(Click here for the Gaelic Athletic Association wiki or Google.ie it.)

03 February 2007

Dublin's Enigmatic Music Scene

Over the last several months that my wife and I have lived in Dublin, I've been very impressed with Dublin's music scene. The great song writers, bands, and intimate live venues all contribute to some great energy in that realm of Dublin culture. In fact, tonight we're headed off to see The Decemberists at Vicar Street, which I'm really excited about. Paste Magazine listed their latest project, The Crane Wife, as the top album of 2006. Seems that some of the greatest American acts in the categories "Under the Radar" and "Blog-Generated Fan Base" want to stop in to Dublin, including Sufjan Stevens a few months back. The brilliantly talented Josh Ritter has even acheived iconic status in Ireland, whereas he's relatively unknown in his homeland. And then there's the recent Oxfam Ireland compilation, The Cake Sale, which has a good share of soulful genius in both song writing and performance.

Having said that, I'm still trying to decide if Hot Press magazine is brilliant or a complete waste of €3.50. Depends on the issue I guess. And what's with this West Life crap? It's bad enough that they're trying to extend the curse of the "boy band" sub-genre. Now they've titled their latest tour "The Love Tour." . . . *long pause to let that sink in* . . . . I just can't think of anything more lacking in creativity and offensive to the art form.

02 February 2007

W.B. Yeats Exhibition

On Wednesday I popped into the National Library of Ireland to have a look around and ended up spending a good hour in the current exhibition on William Butler Yeats. It’s a brilliant exhibition blending creative multi-media presentations and personal affects of the world-renown poet/playwright. (Click here for an online presentation on Yeats poem “Sailing to Byantium.”)

One of the things that fascinates me the most about Yeats was his preoccupation with the spiritual realm, primarily in the form of the occult. One of the documentaries being shown in the exhibition mentioned that his search for the spiritual was in reaction to the ostensibly empty forms of religion and rationalism that he saw in the late nineteenth century. Of course, throughout Ireland’s history “religion” has always been inextricably linked to political agendas. For Yeats, there had to be something more. And if there was, it was certainly not found in Christianity. Interestingly enough, he turned to Celtic paganism instead.